Governor updates residents on western NC wildfires

LAKE LURE, N.C. (AP) -- Gov. Pat McCrory updated residents on the wildfires in western North Carolina as officials report some progress in containing the blazes.

1,600 firefighters continue to battle wildfires throughout western North Carolina. Nearly 40,000 acres have been burned in the state by 19 significant fires since October 23. The governor announced that the estimated cost of these fires is more than $10 million.

"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 Governor 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."

Governor McCrory's State of Emergency remains in effect for 25 counties in western North Carolina. While many evacuation orders have been lifted, mandatory evacuations are still in place in Burke, Graham and Rutherford counties. One shelter is open in Henderson County with three occupants.

Governor McCrory said that among the eight major wildfires still burning in North Carolina, the Party Rock fire in Rutherford County is considered the No. 2 priority fire in the nation and has caused 1,000 people to be evacuated. 

The fire footprint is now 1,914 acres and containment remains at 15 percent. The rapid fire growth caused a mandatory evacuation for all of Chimney Rock Village including the Highway 74-A corridor west of Chimney Rock to the Henderson County line, and some communities in the Town of Lake Lure and Rumbling Bald Resort. Residents and business owners in the evacuated areas have been directed to shelters opening in Lake Lure and Rutherfordton. The evacuation could last anywhere between three and seven days, according to the NC Forest Service.

Meanwhile, authorities report more favorable weather conditions are helping with containment efforts. Temperatures Monday are forecast to be in the high 50s to low 60s with relative humidity in the upper 30-percent range.

For example, officials say containment on the 650-acre Old Roughy fire in Graham County jumped to 60 percent Sunday from 8 percent while containment on the 7,100-acre Maple Springs fire improved slightly, from 13 percent to 15 percent.

An evacuation order issued Wednesday for some residents on the east side of the Old Roughy fire was lifted Sunday afternoon.

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