Rain expected to help fighting North Carolina wildfires

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Fires continue to burn in Western North Carolina (WTVD)

Authorities say 2,500 firefighters and other personnel are making progress on containing some of the biggest wildfires in western North Carolina, and rain could help in the coming days.

As of Saturday morning, five of 11 wildfires listed in the Joint Information Center's update were more than 50 percent contained. Two of the fires also were affecting parts of South Carolina and Georgia.

The National Weather Service said that it was expecting rain in the next week in drought-stricken areas from Alabama and north Georgia through South Carolina's Upstate, western North Carolina and Tennessee. Some areas could get several inches of rain by next Saturday, according to a weather service forecast map.

The Party Rock fire near Lake Lure was 80 percent contained as nearly 300 firefighters and other workers continued to fight it. That's down from a peak of about 900 personnel.

The Maple Springs fire in Graham County, the Chestnut Knob Fire in Burke County and the Boteler Fire in Clay County were also all above 70 percent containment.

Two other large fires were less contained. The Pinnacle Mountain Fire includes parts of Transylvania County and Pickens County in South Carolina. About 250 fire personnel had that fire about 40 percent contained after completing a fireline Friday night. A public meeting will be held Sunday in Cleveland, South Carolina.

The Rock Mountain Fire, which crosses into Georgia from Clay and Macon counties, was 40 percent contained by nearly 600 firefighters.

Smoke drifting on the wind has caused air-quality problems in some urban areas far from the wildfires. Drought conditions have fed wildfires around the Southeast in recent weeks.

Firefighters worked through Thanksgiving digging lines, using aircraft to fight the fires and employing other tactics in North Carolina.

Link Smith, incident commander for the Party Rock fire, told the Citizen-Times in Asheville that crews there are continuing to work to make sure that no embers could escape the containment area and threaten homes. He said no homes have been lost to that fire.

"We owe it to [the residents] to ensure they're not threatened again," Smith said.
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(Copyright ©2016 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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