The Charlotte Fire Department on Sunday said it is deploying firefighters and equipment to help battle wildfires that have ravaged the western part of the state.
An army of 1,100 firefighters from across the country are engaged in the fight against fires feasting on rain-starved slopes deep in North Carolina’s highlands. The blazes have touched off urgent evacuations and shrouded thousands of square miles in an acrid mist of smoke, which in recent days has drifted into the Charlotte region.
Charlotte’s fire department said Sunday it has sent a task force of 17 firefighters, three tankers and two brush trucks to western North Carolina. The task force said it is prepared to remain deployed for several days. The department also said it has previously helped the efforts in other ways, including providing portable radios to the region.
Firefighters from across North Carolina are assisting in the battle, reports the Observer’s news partner WBTV. On Saturday, a large call was made statewide seeking more fire crews to help in the mountains.
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The Salisbury Fire Department sent four firefighters along with Engine 2 to the area, according to WBTV. Kannapolis firefighters left around 4 a.m. Saturday and have since then been assigned to the Lake Lure/Chimney Rock area to protect homes that are in the path of the fire. Four Concord firefighters also volunteered for deployment.
Fires have scorched more than 20,000 acres in the western part of the state since Oct. 23, the flames fed by trees, leaves and understory that are dry as kindling because of severe drought in the region. Fire officials have been stretched thin by what they say is a historic outbreak, and while they don’t know the causes of all the fires, they are investigating some as possible arson.
On Thursday, more than 20 active wildfires in the state’s western region prompted Gov. Pat McCrory to declare a state of emergency.
Drifting smoke has raised concerns about air quality in the state, including in Charlotte.
Charlotte’s air quality index early Friday morning was Code Orange, meaning concentrations of fine particles from smoke could exacerbate asthma and other respiratory conditions. Conditions have since improved to a moderate Code Yellow.