CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Gov. Pat McCrory expanded the state of emergency from 25 counties to 47 counties Wednesday as wildfires continue to burn across western North Carolina.
The wildfires are a byproduct of a lingering drought in the western part of the state.
The state of emergency is in effect for the counties of Alleghany, Anson, Ashe, Cabarrus, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Iredell, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Randolph, Richmond, Rockingham, Rowan, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Union, Wilkes, Yadkin, 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.
Before Wednesday, 25 counties were under a state of emergency.
The state’s top priorities continue to be safety, protecting structures, containment, controlling costs and mitigating air quality, environmental and economic concerns in western North Carolina, McCrory emphasized.
“As we approach Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for the firefighters, first responders and volunteers who have sacrificed so much to help save lives and protect property in North Carolina,” McCrory said. “This designation will help ensure counties threatened by wildfires and our emergency responders will have the tools needed to fight the most serious and dangerous fires we have experienced in North Carolina in decades.”
Evacuations have been ordered in Clay, Graham, Henderson, Macon, Rutherford, Swain and Watauga counties.
Rescue crews, including NC National Guard Blackhawk helicopter, have been called in to help perform any rescues necessary
The fires and drought are in stark contrast to the flooding that the eastern half of the state is continuing to recover from.
“As eastern North Carolina was underwater due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew, the western part of the state has been suffering from a severe drought and now hundreds of acres are burning,” said Governor McCrory.
Officials ask that homeowners keep woodpiles dead leaves away from their homes or propane tanks.
The state is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for setting wildfires. Anyone with information is asked to call Macon County Crimestoppers at 828-349-2600 or Jackson County Crimestoppers at 828-631-1125.