Western N.C. fires continue as FEMA approves request for help

Party Rock fire burns in the mountains over Lake LureSource: N.C. Emergency Management

RALEIGH — The N.C. Forest Service reports that as of Sunday there were 38 wildfires burning on about 41.6 acres of private and state-owned land in N.C. In addition N.C. Emergency Management added Avery, Mitchell, Ashe and Watauga counties to their Code Red air quality warning, saying the fires have made the air unhealthy. The National Forest service says that firefighters are making some progress in containing the blazes, assisted by an increase in humidity in the area. 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. On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved Governor 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.