Evacuations underway as numerous NC mountain wildfires double in size

LAKE LURE, N.C. (WNCN) – Residents are being evacuated in the North Carolina mountains Tuesday as thousands of acres are burning in at least 18 wildfires that have doubled in acreage since the weekend.

CLICK FOR UPDATE: NC mountain wildfires exceed 23,000 acres as 6th county orders evacuations

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The North Carolina Forest Service has issued a ban on open burning across the western part of the state because of increased fire risk amid the current drought.

Evacuations began Tuesday afternoon in the Rutherford County town of Lake Lure as wildfires continued to go nearby and after a state of emergency was declared by the mayor on Monday.

Near Rumbling Bald Resort, the fire at Party Rock, which grew to 344 acres from 300 acres on Tuesday, is threatening Lake Lure, officials said Tuesday night.

Tuesday afternoon, emergency personnel were going door to door to evacuate Lake Lure residents in the Quail Ridge area and Huntington Road areas of Rumbling Bald Resort, town officials said in a statement.

Wildfires encompassing more than 7,000 acres continue to burn across western North Carolina as the region awaits a break in the recent run of dry weather.

CLICK FOR UPDATE: Evacuations now in 5 NC mountain counties as wildfires top 10,000 acres

As of Sunday, the acreage involved was just over 3,000, but more than doubled in the last two days, officials say.

The smoke from the fires was dense enough to show up on weather radar and smoke was forecast to head toward N.C. beaches, the Wilmington National Weather Service office said.

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On Tuesday authorities are asking residents in Macon County to stay alert and officials activated the county reverse 911 system, but stopped short of evacuation orders while there are several fires in Macon County including two large fires in the Tellico and Queens Creek communities.

“At this time there are NO evacuation orders in place, however … all residents in the communities affected by these two fires begin preparations should conditions change and warrant an evacuation,” Macon County Emergency Management Director Warren Cabe said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

RELATED: Chatham County fire marshal warns against outdoor burning as wildfires rage in western NC

More than 540 firefighters are battling 18 wildfires in the Nantahala National Forest, leading to emergency closures, including the Appalachian Trail, which is now closed from Rock Gap to the Nantahala River.

The largest fire is 3,417 acres at Tellico, northwest of Franklin in the Nantahala Mountains, according to the U.S. Park Service.

Another large fire of 2,532 acres is at Boteler, Boteler Peak near Hayesville, the park service said. The Boteler fire is only 30 percent contained as of Tuesday, officials said

The Forest Service said in a news release that the burn ban began 5 p.m. Monday and is in effect until further notice.

The burn ban prohibits all open burning in the 25 affected counties, regardless of whether a permit was issued. No new permits will be issued until the ban is lifted.

The affected area includes Buncombe, Gaston and Catawba counties.

Violation of the ban carries a $100 fine plus court costs of $180.

As of Nov. 6, there had been more than 2,800 wildfires affecting more than 18,000 acres on state-protected lands across North Carolina this year.

The burn ban affects the following counties: 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.

Under North Carolina law, the ban prohibits all open burning in the affected counties, regardless of whether a permit was issued.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

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