As fires torch South, burn bans enacted, arson investigated

As fires torch South, burn bans enacted, arson investigated


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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — As drought-stressed forests burn across much of the South — including a blaze scorching a Manhattan-sized area of north Georgia — some traditional outdoor activities are now banned.

Starting campfires, lighting fireworks, smoking cigarettes, even parking a car off-road is prohibited, for fear that a hot tailpipe could ignite dry leaves below.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Adam Rondeau has said the agency is tracking wildfires that have burned a total of 80,000 acres across the South.

The Tennessee Valley Authority issued a burn ban Tuesday on its public lands across Tennessee and in parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia. The authority said its ban applies to anything that might produce an open flame.

Gov. Bill Haslam, meanwhile, banned outdoor burning outright in more than half of Tennessee's counties through December 15.

Also, two men were arrested Monday on charges related to setting separate fires along roadsides in Tennessee. Of the 1,238 wildfires in the state so far this year, officials suspect arson in almost half of them.

In Alabama, Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen said state officers are investigating two of nearly 1,100 statewide wildfires as possible arson. No arrests have been made, but officers have issued misdemeanor citations for allegedly violated the statewide no-burn order.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has banned the ignition of all fireworks in much of the state due to the wildfire risk. Fire officials said the largest active wildfire in the South has now burned more than 19,000 acres in the north Georgia mountains — an area larger than New York's Manhattan.

The fires in North Carolina now cover in excess of 40,000 acres. Federal and state forestry officials said Tuesday that cloudy conditions allowed firefighters to make progress on containment.

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Jonathan Mattise

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