Crews battle wind-driven wildfires in western NC

BRYSON CITY, N.C. (AP) — Wind-driven wildfires in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park have burned hundreds of acres in western North Carolina and forced the evacuation of several homes, authorities said.

The fires also prompted officials to close several trails and backcountry campsites in the nation’s most-visited national park, which covers more than 520,000 acres straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee.

Crews from the National Park Service, North Carolina Forest Service, Bryson City Fire Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs were working to contain what they are calling the Thomas Divide Complex Fire. The blaze consists of two separate fires — the 140-acre Stone Pile Fire and the 170-acre Cooper Creek Fire.

Officials said both fires were started from power lines knocked down by high winds and were estimated to be 10% contained as of late Saturday night.

The National Weather Service issued “red flag” warnings for several western North Carolina counties on Saturday and again on Sunday, meaning a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures could lead to “extreme fire behavior.”

Officials said 15 to 20 homes near Stone Pile Gap Road, Coopers Creek Road and McCracken Road were evacuated and two abandoned trailers had been destroyed in the fire.

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