Headline: Wildfires, Smoke Shroud South Region of Appalachian Trail

 Billowing smoke from wildfires darkened the skies near Soddy-Daisy, TN, on Thursday.

Tennessee firefighters

ATLANTA - All but a few of the nation’s largest active wildfires Thursday (November 11, 2016) were burning in the South, where a relentless drought has turned pine trees into torches and forced evacuations in dozens of communities in the Appalachian foothills.

High winds, unseasonably warm temperatures and weeks without rain have combined to spark blaze after blaze in the dry brush and trees. Numerous teams of firefighters reported blazes running up slopes and down ravines as authorities struggled to protect hundred of threatened structures. Thursday’s national drought report shows 41.6 million people in parts of 15 Southern states living in drought conditions. The worst drought is in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, but extreme drought also is spreading into the western Carolinas, and Kentucky and Tennessee had the most fires. 

Nearly all the active large wildfires nationwide Thursday were in the Southeast, according to the U.S. Forext Service. Nearly a dozen large forest were uncontained, with 15 more breaking out on Thursday. 

Nearly 390 firefighters and support crews and a half-dozen water-pumping helicopters were battling 20 fires in Kentucky on Thursday that together have burned nearly 20,000 acres, state officials said.

To help with evacuations and provide more firefighting assets, North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for a fourth of his states’s 100 counties. 

Smoke blowing southward has blanketed Atlanta and other cities in haze.

Firefighters were battling three active wildfires in Alabama on Thursday, the latest of more that 1,100 fires that have charred nearly 12,000 acres in the last month.

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