Officials have declared a state of emergency in a western North Carolina community where a wildfire has burned hundreds of acres, some structures and now is threatening dozens of homes.
Crews are fighting several separate blazes in forested areas of Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky as wide swaths of those states face moderate to severe drought conditions and warmer than normal temperatures.
The 431-acre fire in Henderson County, North Carolina, has destroyed two homes, a cabin and an outbuilding, county officials said in a social media post Sunday that declared a state of emergency.
Officials have identified 75 other structures that are threatened and said fire departments are focusing on structure protection while North Carolina Forest Services is focusing on putting in fire lines.
Meanwhile, crews are fighting a blaze in Cherokee County that has grown to more than 2,100 acres, but is not threatening structures, the US Forest Service said.
The North Carolina Forest Service issued a burn ban Sunday for 14 counties in the western part of the state due to hazardous forest fire conditions and said it would stay in effect until further notice.
“Several counties in Western North Carolina are currently in a severe drought, and we are seeing wildfire activity increase due to dry conditions. Because dry conditions are expected to continue this burn ban is necessary to reduce the risk of fires starting and spreading quickly,” the statement said.
In Virginia, the state Department of Forestry said a wildfire near Madison County has led officials to encourage some residents to evacuate as crews work to stop the blaze from spreading.
That fire had burned nearly 2,500 acres on Sunday, but no structures have been affected and firefighters were installing additional fire lines to maintain that, the agency said.
In eastern Kentucky, where conditions were also dry, the top official in Harlan County issued a burn ban and a state of emergency on Sunday, saying there had been six forest fires in the last three days “that has caused a significant strain on first responder agencies.”
Two firefighters were injured “while attempting to protect life and property,” Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley said.
In West Virginia, wildfires estimated to be at least 500 acres burned Monday in the Cabin Creek area, southeast of the state capital of Charleston.
The Kanawha County Commission requested that the state issue a complete burn ban for the county. Currently outdoor burning is allowed statewide between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. Dry conditions in the state were expected to continue through Thursday.
Crews were fighting two fires in East Tennessee including one in Rocky Top, but no injuries have been reported and no structures are in danger, Anderson County officials told news outlets.
Clinton Fire Department Lt. Daniel Adams said the area is very dry and that combined with leaves covering the ground create ripe conditions for brush fires.
“Anything as simple as a cigarette being flicked out your window or disregarding some ashes — stuff we wouldn’t be as concerned about right now — we are tremendously concerned about because of the dryness,” Adams told WBIR-TV.
Other parts of the US are seeing unseasonably warmer temperatures and dry conditions this week. The Dallas-Fort Worth area saw highs in the 80s, about 10 degrees warmer than average.
Milder weather also stretched into the Midwest, where Wichita, Kansas, was seeing temperatures stretch toward 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
A cold front creeping into the Central and Southern Plains later in the week was expected to push highs down to normal for this time of year.