ATLANTA, Ga — More than 5,000 firefighters and support staff from around the nation have come to the Southeast, battling major wildfires that threaten hundreds of buildings and people.
Regional aviation director Shardul Raval of the U.S. Forest Service says Thursday the effort includes about 40 aircraft, and three large air tankers are flying out of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
High winds and temperatures and weeks without rain have combined to spark blaze after blaze in the unusually dry landscape. Numerous teams reported wind-driven fires racing up slopes and down ravines as they struggled to protect hundreds of threatened structures.
Thursday’s national drought report shows 41.6 million people in parts of 15 Southern states living in drought conditions. The worst is in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, but extreme drought also is spreading into the western Carolinas. Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina all have fierce fires.