Wildfires rage across southern Appalachians Lieutenant Jesse Mooney, of the Flat Top Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, carries a hose as firefighters battle a wildfire Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn. Federal authorities say warmer-than-average temperatures and no rainfall are deepening a drought that's sparking forest fires across the Southeastern U.S. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey/Abigail Margulis/The Asheville Citizen-Times via AP)
Wildfires rage across southern Appalachians
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Many of the nation's largest active wildfires have been burning in the southern Appalachian mountains, where a relentless drought has turned pine trees into torches and forced evacuations in dozens of communities.
 
More than 5,000 firefighters and support staff from around the nation have poured into the Southeast to try to suppress these fires, said Shardul Raval, director of fire and aviation management for the southern region of the U.S. Forest Service.
 
The effort includes about 40 aircraft, including three large air tankers flying out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Tens of thousands of acres of forest have burned, and about a dozen of the largest fires were uncontained, the forest service said.
 
High winds and temperatures and weeks without rain have combined to spark blaze after blaze in the unusually dry landscape. Numerous teams reported wind-driven fires racing up slopes and down ravines as they struggled to protect hundreds of threatened structures.
 
"It just smells like a campfire" along the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia, said Carlie Gentry, who works at the Mountain Crossings store at Walasi-yi, a popular stop for hikers.
 
"For weeks up here we've been having smoke, but it is getting more intense for sure," Gentry said. Typically, the view stretches for miles, she said. Now, "you can hardly see to the next ridge."
 
Parts of 15 Southern states are living in drought conditions. The worst is in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, but extreme drought also is spreading into the western Carolinas. Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina all have fierce fires.
 
"We're kind of holding our own," said Jennifer Turner, a spokeswoman for Kentucky's state Division of Forestry. "We've been able to get control over some of the smaller fires."
 
But with humidity so low in the normally lush Appalachians and Great Smoky Mountains, authorities are bracing for more. North Carolina's Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for a fourth of his state's 100 counties, to help with evacuations and provide more firefighting assets.
 
More than 560 firefighters and staff from at least 40 states were battling 18 blazes in the Nantahala National Forest in western North Carolina, and state climatologist Rebecca Ward said some counties are having one of their driest years in 105 years of record-keeping.
 
Smoke blowing southward has blanketed Atlanta and other cities in haze.
 
In Alabama, drought is choking 80 percent of the land, drying up streams and lakes and turning plants to tinder. Firefighters in the state have battled more than 1,100 fires that have charred nearly 12,000 acres in the last month.
 
Tuscaloosa and Birmingham have both tied or broken records for days without measurable rain. Neither has had more than sprinkles since late September. And Noccalula Falls, a popular attraction on Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama, has been bone dry for weeks.
 
"The creek is dry. There's not even a trickle going over the falls," campground manager Kaila Fair said.
 
One of the largest blazes was spreading rapidly in the Cohutta Wilderness area just south of the Georgia-Tennessee line. Nearly 300 people are battling that fire, which already consumed 10,000 acres, the Forest Service said.
 
In the hills outside Chattanooga, firefighters were trying to save homes on both Signal Mountain and Mowbray Mountain. They may get reinforcements: The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would reimburse most of one fire's costs after a request from Tennessee.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do firefighters come from so many states?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (16)
  • emilyj-lam
    11/23/2016 - 10:43 a.m.

    So many firefighters come from other states because they want to help fight the fires, it's their job.
    I have seen first hand that working some where like firefighting or being a police officers, you make a very strong bond with the other people you work with. They turn into a second family. My father works as a firefighter, and his co-workers, over the years, turned into kind of older brothers.

  • trentd-lam
    11/23/2016 - 10:43 a.m.

    I think that there is so many firefighters come from so many states because it could be a big fire and needs a lot of people to put out the fire.

  • marshallm-lam
    11/23/2016 - 10:46 a.m.

    We need to be more careful. I can't believe that people start forest fires on accident, you need to be cautious. They seem impossible to put out and I can't imagine trying to put a forest fire out.

  • abbyj-lam
    11/23/2016 - 10:50 a.m.

    I am glad that so many people are going to help try and put out the fires. It is horrible for a disaster like this to happen. I feel bad for all the people who live near there.

  • josephj-lam
    11/23/2016 - 11:57 a.m.

    We should do things to help stop fires or make a program of pass a law. If we do nothing, the fires will continue and we will use a lot of our trees.

  • seppp-lam
    11/23/2016 - 11:59 a.m.

    Firefighter come from so many states because this is a very big deal and it could keep spreading. The fire would go into other states. So they need as much man power to stop the fires.

  • alp-lam
    11/23/2016 - 01:39 p.m.

    I think that it is strange that there is no rain or humidity in those areas because those are some of the most humid states in the country. Hopefully these fires will be put out soon and all of the residents in those areas will be safe.

  • nicholasp1-lam
    11/23/2016 - 02:19 p.m.

    Firefighters from all over the states come to the southwest to suppress the fires from spreading to much. Because of the heat and it being dry out there they need every person that they can get to stop the fires from getting out of control!

  • peytonw-cel
    11/28/2016 - 10:07 a.m.

    Firefighters come from different states to help these other firefighters that can't stop the fires by themselves. More than 560 firefighters and staff from at least 40 states were battling 18 blazes in the Nantahala National Forest in western North Carolina. The more sources that you have the fire will be taken care of. These states also don't want the fire to start spreading from state to state. These back up units help a lot with these fires.

  • johannaw-cel
    11/28/2016 - 10:18 a.m.

    Many dangerous wildfires have been burning in the southern Appalachian mountains, caused by a strong drought because of the combination of high winds and temperatures and weeks without rain. All these fires forced evacuations of people in many communities. The worst drought is in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, but also in western Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for many counties, to help with evacuations and with controlling the fires. Rebecca Ward, a state climatologist, said that some counties are having one of their driest years in 105 years of recording. This is a very big problem, because drought causes wild fires, which are hard to control and this is very dangerous for human, but also for the biodiversity of the world.
    After reading this article, I wonder why this is for some places their driest year...

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