FAA orders temporary ground stop at Charlotte airport because of wildfires

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Wildfires continue in western NC
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Firefighters battle mounting flames in western North Carolina.

LAKE LURE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily issued a ground stop Tuesday morning at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport because of the low visibility caused by wildfires burning in western North Carolina.

A ground stop slows or stops the flow of incoming airplanes into an airport. The stop lasted about 30 minutes.

Officials told travelers to check with their airlines about possible delays.

Nearly 1,600 firefighters, including some from the Triangle, continue to battle wildfires with nearly 40,000 acres already burned.

Some 20 significant fires have been burning in the western part of the state since Oct. 23. and Gov. Pat McCrory announced Monday that it could take till the month of March to put out one of the fires.

According to WLOS, the Party Rock Fire near Lake Lure has already burned nearly 3,500 acres and remains just 15 percent contained. The governor and state Forest Service officials say if there is no rain or snow, the worst-case scenario is that the fire would continue to burn until March.

Right now the estimated cost of the fires is more than $10 million.

Get the latest on the WNC fires on the ABC11 News App

"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.

He said that he's working together as a team with local, state, and federal officials as well as firefighters. McCrory stressed that safety for everyone involved is the priority.

Durham Highway Fire Department in Wake County Fire Chief David McNulty said crews from the Triangle have been working overnight shifts while helping.

"With all these resources I feel like a player on a team," said Bradley Dixon, a volunteer firefighter from Orange County.

Dixon is just getting into the Lake Lure area on Monday and said he is assigned to be in the area for the next 72 hours.

"I'm pretty much here to do what they ask," said Dixon.

Part of the hefty task is to protect homes and buildings. Captain Lee Faulk with the Cary Fire Department is on one of the many teams doing just that.

He spoke with ABC11 as he was preparing for another night shift.

"We set up on a house and basically kept the fire as it came through, away from the house," said Capt. Faulk. "It's different from what we're used to in the eastern part of our state, we don't have the elevation and the steep angles."

Officials are still trying to determine the cause of the fires. McCrory said dry conditions could mean the fires will last for several months.

The wildfires have threatened 1,780 structures, damaged one structures and destroyed two others.

On Saturday, FEMA approved the governor's request for financial assistance which allows FEMA to pay for 75 percent of the emergency protective measures taken in fighting the fires.

The state of emergency remains in effect for 25 counties in the western part of the state. While many evacuation orders have been lifted, mandatory evacuations are still in place in Burke, Graham, and Rutherford counties.

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