Smoke from more than a dozen western North Carolina wildfires is being carried across the Piedmont as an gusty cold front approaches.
Some of the fires, burning as far west as the state borders with Tennessee and Georgia, have been burning for days. A prolonged period of dry weather across the state has made conditions ripe for fires.
Almost everyone living in North Carolina north and west of Charlotte is in some form of a drought. Severe conditions stretch back south across the upstates of South Carolina and Georgia. Many areas have not seen rain since Hurricane Matthew brought precipitation to the region in early October.
On Monday, the North Carolina Forest Service instituted a burn ban across the western portion of the state.
“Fire experts with the N.C. Forest Service feel that with the current drought situation and the number of fires burning on federal lands, it would be best to be proactive about preventing human-caused wildfires. And I agree with them,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler on Monday.
By Tuesday, the number of uncontrolled wild fires in the state had climbed to 17. New fires in McDowell, Burke, Caldwell and Rutherford counties were expected to be added to the list Wednesday.
Carolina Weather Group's Scotty Powell reported live Wednesday night from a fire burning just west of Marion, North Carolina. (Read more below photo gallery.)
Powell said windy conditions coupled with low humidity likely means that firefighters will need to continue working through the night to extinguish the flames.
"Long night in North Carolina with these wildfires," Powell said.
In other parts of the state, fire crews were setting small, controlled fires. Back burns are intended to destroy flammable material before bigger flames arrive. WSOC TV's Dave Faherty talked with fire fighting crews in South Mountain State Park, which closed earlier this week after more than 50 acres burned.
Windy conditions were expected to continue Thursday. A State of Emergency has been declared near a 435 acre fire in Chimney Rock State Park land about one mile north of Lake Lure. As nearby homes were evacuated Wednesday, only 15% of the fire had been contained. Fire officials said slope effect winds were contributing to the fire's behavior.
With winds expected to continue out of the northwest, residents in North Carolina and South Carolina living hundreds of miles away from fires may continue to experience smokey, hazy conditions.