Officials investigating arson as possible cause of western NC wildfires

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Arson is being investigated as the possible cause of more than 20 wildfires throughout western North Carolina, officials say.

The wildfires, which have been active for more than a week, has covered more than 19,000 acres and continues to spread.

As of Friday afternoon, no arrests have been made in the state, but arson arrests have been reported in Tennessee and Kentucky, as they too suffer from drought conditions. WSOC reports.

In a news release on Thursday, Gov. Pat McCrory declared a State of Emergency for 25 western counties. In addition, residents are being forced to evacuate their houses.

“This declaration will help facilitate evacuations as needed and provide further state assets to help combat the wildfires and support North Carolinians displaced by the fires,” McCrory said. “This is extremely dangerous work, and I especially want to thank the firefighters, first responders, sheriffs and other emergency personnel that have risked their own lives to protect our citizens and property.”

More than 560 firefighters from at least 40 states were helping to battle the fires in the Nantahala National Forest. The North Carolina Emergency Management’s Helo-Aquatic Rescue Team deployed a helicopter to perform rescues.