LAKE LURE – One thousand more people were evacuated from the Chimney Rock area in Rutherford County as wildfires continue to burn in the Western part of the state. The Party Rock Fire, near Lake Lure, started Saturday and is thought to be only 15 percent contained. The blaze has consumed more than 3,400 acres. In a press conference on Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory said that dry conditions have exacerbated the situation, but they believe the fires were initiated by people.”We have California wildfires in North Carolina and they continue to cause serious challenges for our firefighter community, for towns throughout western North Carolina, and they continue to use a lot of resources and impact our environment,” said Gov. McCrory. “We are working together as a team among mayors, county commissioners, state officials, the federal government and firefighters to address our priorities of containing these fires and protecting the safety of our first responders, citizens and structures.”More than 43 fires are burning across eight states in the southeast from Alabama to West Virginia. In N.C. 16,000 firefighters and 100 firetrucks are working to contain fires in 19 counties. The Party Rock Fire is one of them, but the largest is the Tellico Fire which is burning on more than 13,000 acres in Swain and Macon counties. The Tellico blaze also led to a rock slide that closed a 10-mile section of U.S. 19/74 in the Nantahala Gorge. Two other fires are the Boteler Fire near Hayesville and the Maple Springs Fire. Clay County’s evacuation order has been lifted, but parts of the Appalachian Trail and other highways remain closed with campfires banned all along the trail and borders with Georgia and Tennessee.In eastern Kentucky, 21-year-old Johnny Mullins was arrested on felony arson charges after he said he set a fire there to draw attention to his Facebook page. On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved Gov. Pat McCrory’s request for financial assistance to fight the wildfires. FEMA approved the Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) which means the agency will now pay for 75 percent of the emergency protective measures taken in fighting the fires, including expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; tools, materials and supplies; and mobilization and demobilization activities.”This is good news in our continued efforts to protect lives and property as teams continue to try to get these fires under control,” said McCrory. “It is imperative that we use all of the resources at our disposal to handle this serious and dangerous situation in western North Carolina.” On Thursday, McCrory declared a State of Emergency for 25 counties in that part of the state including Alexander, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Gaston, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey counties.
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