Burning ban ordered as wildfires toast North Carolina mountains

A firefighter in Mitchell County in this file photo.
A firefighter in Mitchell County in this file photo. THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

The North Carolina Forest Service has banned outdoor burning in 25 western counties where dry conditions have increased the potential of human-caused wildfires.

Mountain counties in the western third of the state are in drought.

Through Sunday, 2,829 wildfires had burned 18,158 acres on state-protected lands across the state this year. More than 1,000 of those fires were in the mountains, where they burned 3,375 acres.

The latest fire erupted Saturday above Party Rock in Lake Lure, where firefighters battled a blaze estimated to cover 60 acres. A burn ban is in effect for the town of Lake Lure. Crews also fought a 30-acre fire on Rumbling Bald Mountain, near Chimney Rock State Park.

Fires continue to burn in the Nantahala National Forest, leading to emergency closures, including the Appalachian Trail, which is now closed from Rock Gap to the Nantahala River.

Monday’s ban prohibits all open burning, regardless of whether a permit was issued. Violation of the ban carries a $100 fine plus court costs of $180.

It doesn’t apply to cooking fires, such as grills, or to fires within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling.

The affected counties are 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.

The Associated Press contributed.