Smoke shrouded hundreds of square miles in the North Carolina highlands Wednesday as wildfires continued to feast on tinder-dry woodlands.
One fire near Blowing Rock in which arson is suspected was expected to grow to up to 1,500 acres, though firefighters had succeeded in keeping it away from structures.
Near Lake Lure, a fire management team from the Oregon Department of Forestry took command Wednesday of operations in the Party Rock Fire, digging in to spend the Thanksgiving holiday a continent away from home to relieve a team from the N.C. Forest Service at work for two weeks.
“We’ve had a ton of help from North Carolina come to Oregon during the fire seasons of 2013, 2014 and 2015,” said Link Smith, taking over command from Dan Brandon of the North Carolina Forest Service.
“It’s an honor to be here to serve and to start to repay what so many have done for the people of Oregon.”
Of the 16 major wildfires active in the state, the Party Rock Fire was considered the priority because it threatened so many structures around its perimeter in the resort towns of Bat Cave, Chimney Rock and Lake Lure.
At its height, more than 900 firefighters were pitted against the inferno. About a third of them have now been released.
By Wednesday, the fire was considered more than 50 percent contained and crews planned to spend the holiday weekend tamping out hotspots.