Encroaching wildfires prompt North Carolina and Tennessee campgrounds to evacuate

PINNACLE, N.C. — Wildfires prompted campgrounds in North Carolina and Tennessee to evacuate starting Sunday, while firefighters prepared for high winds and low humidity Monday, though officials hoped for some help from expected rain.

The National Weather Service office in Morristown, Tennessee, issued a red flag warning Tuesday in the mountains of East Tennessee and southwestern North Carolina, with winds between 25 and 50 mph on Monday afternoon, increasing to 25 to 70 mph /hour on Monday evening at 130 km/hour. risk of gusts of wind in some places.

In North Carolina, a youth camp and a dozen homes were evacuated Sunday evening as the fire spread into the Sauratown Mountains in Stokes County, Jimmy Holt, a ranger with the N.C. Forest Service, said Monday. About 50 children were safely evacuated from Mountain Top Youth Camp and residents of about 12 threatened homes were advised to evacuate as the fire spread, Holt said. No injuries or damage to structures were reported.

By Monday evening, the fire, which was first reported Saturday evening, had spread to 300 acres with little containment and at least 100 people are involved in fighting the blaze, including firefighters from Washington, Oregon, Utah and Montana, who are deployed on this type of ground, Holt said.

“They are some of the best firefighters we have here right now in the country,” he said.

Rain forecasts for Tuesday could help extinguish the fire.

“It’s going to be a challenge today,” Holt said. “Yesterday was a very, very hard day on the mountain and today will be another hard day.”

Firefighters in the Cherokee National Forest, which spans 10 counties along the Tennessee border, are securing existing fires ahead of the wind event, the US Forest Service said in a news release.

In Tennessee, authorities also ordered an evacuation at a campsite on Whitwell Mountain as a wildfire caused by an escaped campfire spread, Marion County Emergency Management Director Steve Lamb told the press.

“It is a challenging terrain; it is difficult to access the areas where the fire is,” Lamb said. “We just have to work it out as best we can; it will take a while.”

About 20 hectares (8 acres) had burned, Lamb said Monday, and Whitwell police said in a statement on social media that a helicopter was used in an attempt to help contain and extinguish the fire.