2016 Southeastern United States Wildfires
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2016 Southeastern United States Wildfires
Southeastern United States Wildfires of 2016
Rough Ridge Fire burning in the Cohutta Wilderness 2016 11 11-11.45.52.687-CST.jpg
The Rough Ridge Fire burning in the Cohutta Wilderness
Location Alabama[1]
Georgia
North Carolina
South Carolina
Tennessee
Statistics
Date(s) October 23, 2016 - present (EDT)
Burned area At least 80,000 acres (32,000 ha)
Cause Several fires suspected to have been caused by arson
Buildings
destroyed
400+[2]
Fatalities 14[3]
Non-fatal injuries ~74[4]

The 2016 Southeastern United States Wildfires are a series of wildfires in the Southeastern United States in October and November 2016. As of November 15, 2016, the U.S. Forest Service reported tracking 33 wildfires that had burned about 90,000 acres (36,000 ha).

Context

Firefighters from 21 states[5] including Washington and Oregon have been part of the effort to fight the blazes. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said 1600 firefighters fought 19 fires in his state, at a cost of $10 million since October 23. Arson is believed responsible for several fires in the Nantahala National Forest where 46,000 acres had burned as of November 18.[6][7] The Asheville Regional Airport reported no rain for ten days after October 8, 2016, after which the area was considered to be in severe drought,[8] while Cherokee, Clay and Macon Counties were considered to be in extreme drought. A month later these three counties and Graham and part of Swain were in exceptional drought, and ten other counties were in extreme drought. Only a trace of rain fell in the month ending November 15 and the airport reported a 10.8 inches (27 cm) deficit for the year 2016 as of November 18.[6][9][10]

As of December 8, even after rain, much of Georgia and Alabama continued to be in exceptional drought, while Tennessee and the western Carolinas were in extreme drought.[11]

Lightning and accidental human activity such as campfires may have started some fires. Poor air quality is an issue in Asheville and other parts of western North Carolina.[7]

Western North Carolina fires

Smoke from the Tellico Fire near the Nantahala Outdoor Center

The Tellico Fire in North Carolina began October 23 in Swain County, North Carolina and had burned over 5,600 hectares (14,000 acres) as of November 18, 2016. The Boteler Fire in Clay County, North Carolina began October 25 and had burned 3,600 hectares (8,900 acres) as of November 18.[10]

The Party Rock Fire in North Carolina, which McCrory called number two in the country, began November 5 and as of November 18 had burned 2,900 hectares (7,200 acres) and resulted in the evacuation of 1000 people in the areas of Bat Cave, Chimney Rock and Lake Lure.[6][12] People were allowed to return to Chimney Rock on November 21, 10 days after they left. Firefighters who came mostly from the eastern part of the state had watched buildings in the towns while local fire departments covered their areas. Lake Lure was the headquarters for operations.[13]

On November 30 a man was arrested for setting two Macon County fires.[14]

As of December 6, substantial rain had helped greatly in the effort to bring under control as many as 34 fires which had burned 60,000 acres.[14]

North Georgia fires

The Rough Ridge fire in the Cohutta Wilderness of Georgia, believed to have started from a lightning strike October 16, 2016,[15] had burned almost 11,300 hectares (28,000 acres) by November 20, making it one of the largest fires ever in Georgia, and the largest current fire in the United States, and resulting in an air quality alert in Atlanta.[16][17][18][19] The Rock Mountain fire was about 4,250 hectares (10,500 acres) as of November 20, 2016 and caused the evacuation of Dream Catcher Cover north of Tate City, Georgia.[19]

As of December 8, the Rough Ridge and Rock Mountain fires were either fully or nearly contained.[11]

East Tennessee fires

On November 11, 2016, a Chattanooga man was arrested for setting 3 separate fires north and west of the city. Over 500 acres had been burned in connection with these fires.[20]

Governor Bill Haslam issued a burn ban for 51 counties starting on November 14 through December 15.[21]

On November 16, 2016, two men were arrested for arson in separate wildfire incidents in Tennessee. In Sequatchie County, an Alabama man admitted to dropping a cigarette in a pile of leaves, watching it burn and leaving without putting it out. In Monroe County, a resident was arrested for starting a burn on personal property, against the burn ban, that got out of control.[22]

As of November 17, 2016, Tennessee Division of Forestry reported 64 fires that had burned 17,734 acres. The largest was in Morgan County in the White Oak Circle area covered about 1900 acres but was contained. Another on Neddy Mountain in Cocke County had burned 1116 acres but was mostly contained.[23][24]

By November 21, just 95 acres were reported still burning in Tennessee, and at least half of the state's fires were reported to be started in connection with arson.[25]

On November 28, the Chimney Tops 2 fire in the Chimney Tops of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park spread with the aid of strong winds and dry conditions, the fire quickly broke into multiple fires and spread across the mountains above and around Gatlinburg, Tennessee. By the evening hours the fire had reached the downtown area of Gatlinburg, resulting in the evacuation of over 14,000 people, along with causing damage in and around the town.[26] By November 29, the wildfires had claimed at least three lives.[27] An additional four people were later confirmed dead the next day.[28] As of December 4, the Chimney Tops 2 fire had burned 17,006 acres.[14] A total of 14 people died and 134 others were injured in the Smoky Mountains fires, while over 2,400 structures were burned. Damages were totaled to over $500 Million.[14][29]

On December 8, the burn ban was lifted for 4 of the 51 counties in Tennessee to aid cleanup of tornadoes that happened on November 29 in southeast Tennessee.[30]

See also

References

  1. ^ http://abc3340.com/news/local/alabama-forestry-commission-battling-20-active-wildfires-windy-conditions
  2. ^ "Wildfires scorch Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, destroying homes and businesses". The Globe & Mail. November 29, 2016. Retrieved 2016. 
  3. ^ Beam, Adam; Mattise, Jonathan (December 2, 2016). "RESIDENTS LINE UP TO SEE WILDFIRE-RAVAGED CITY; 13 DEAD". hosted.ap.org. AP. 
  4. ^ Hanna, Jason; Simon, Darran; Moshtaghian, Artemis (December 1, 2016). "Gatlinburg fires: 10 dead; families wait for news of missing". CNN. Retrieved 2016. 
  5. ^ Ball, Julie (November 15, 2016). "Updated: Party Rock fire grows to 3,400 acres". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c Margulis, Abigail (November 19, 2016). "Dry air, gusty winds cause officials concern for fire growth". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Dorman, Travis (November 16, 2016). "West Coast crews mobilize to battle Southeast fires". USA Today. Retrieved 2016. 
  8. ^ "US Drought Monitor". DroughtMonitor.unl.edu. United States Drought Monitor. Retrieved 2016. 
  9. ^ Margulis, Abigail (October 20, 2016). "Asheville sees 10 days without rain, severe drought emerges". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Chávez, Karen (November 18, 2016). "Outbreak of WNC wildfires takes toll on wildlife, environment". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Martin, Jeff (December 8, 2016). "Drought, the South's unwelcome guest, stays despite rains". News & Observer. Associated Press. Retrieved 2016. 
  12. ^ Margulis, Abigail (November 16, 2016). "Rapid fire growth anticipated at Party Rock blaze". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved 2016. 
  13. ^ Washburn, Mark (November 21, 2016). "Chimney Rock, NC mountain resort reopens after wildfire contained". News & Observer. Retrieved 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c d Chason, Rachel (December 6, 2016). "With rain's help, firefighters bring NC wildfires under control". News & Observer. Retrieved 2016. 
  15. ^ "Rough Ridge Fire". InciWeb. Retrieved 2016. 
  16. ^ Packer, Meghan (November 15, 2016). "Rough Ridge fire burns more than 23,000 acres". WGCL-TV. Retrieved 2016. 
  17. ^ Harris, Rodney (November 15, 2016). "'Code Red' Air Quality Alert issued for Atlanta for first time in 1,500 days". WGCL-TV. Retrieved 2016. 
  18. ^ Harding, Adam; De La Rosa, Christian (November 10, 2016). "Rough Ridge wildfire burns more than 17,000 acres". WGCL-TV. Retrieved 2016. 
  19. ^ a b Buchanan, Christopher (November 21, 2016). "North Ga. fires engulf 40,000 acres as battle, evacuations continue". WXIA. Retrieved 2016. 
  20. ^ http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2016/nov/11/arsonist-be-arrested-connection-wildfire/397292//.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/politics/state/story/2016/nov/14/tennessee-gov-haslam-issues-51-county-ban-burning-until-dec-15/397735/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2016/nov/16/firefighters-making-progress-contalocal-wildf/397977/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ Hara, Amanda (November 18, 2016). "Wildfires currently burning in East Tennessee". WVLT. Retrieved 2016. 
  24. ^ Hickman, Hayes; Dorman, Travis (November 18, 2016). "Blount County fire could burn up to 200 acres, officials say". Knoxville News-Sentinel. Retrieved 2016. 
  25. ^ http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2016/11/21/haslam-vows-pursuit-tennessee-wildfire-arsonists/94231932/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ Vellucci, Amy J.; Satterfield, Jamie (November 29, 2016). "14,000 evacuated from Gatlinburg; fires still burning". knoxnews.com. Retrieved 2016. 
  27. ^ "Gatlinburg wildfires claim 3 lives". WHIO-TV via Associated Press. November 29, 2016. Retrieved 2016. 
  28. ^ Hanna, Jason; Moshtaghian, Artemis; Blau, Max (November 30, 2016). "Gatlinburg fires: Death toll rises to 7". CNN. Retrieved 2016. 
  29. ^ "Confirmed victims of Smoky Mountain wildfires", WBIR, 30 Jan 2017. The 14th and last confirmed victim was identified 27 Jan 2017.
  30. ^ http://www.local8now.com/content/news/Burn-ban-lifted-in-3-Tennessee-counties-405460726.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

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