Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dozens of wildfires in South threaten rural areas

Locations of wildfires (WSJ)
More than 3,700 firefighters have been sent to the Southeast to fight wildfires caused by drought and suspected arson, Cameron McWhirter reports in a video story for The Wall Street Journal. As of Tuesday, "37 fires comprising 100 acres or more each burned in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and Alabama," according to the U.S. Forest Service. Overall, 107,599 acres have burned.

One problem in many of the mountainous areas is the inability to bring in heavy equipment to clear land around a blaze so it burns out, McWhirter writes. Unable to bring in heavy equipment Georgia "has sent in work crews made up of park rangers, prison inmates and others to the affected areas to create fire lines with shovels, axes and other tools."

Georgia in October had 944 wildfires, a 220 percent increase over the past five years, and in November has had 399 fires, an increase of 15 percent, McWhirter writes. The biggest damage, in Fannin County, has burned 28,000 acres.

Ken Arney, deputy regional forester for State and Private Forestry in the Forest Service’s Southern region, said one problem is that "the South has denser hardwood forests than many western areas, meaning more fuel for fires to burn, and the region generally has more houses in the forests as well," McWhirter writes. He told McWhirter, "We’re a long way from saying we are in good shape containing these fires." (WSJ video) 

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