Cat. Co. under burn ban, air quality warning , Multiple departments remain on standby

photo courtesy of dave faherty via twitter
Staff Writer

by cigi sparks
o-n-e reporter
As wildfires continue to plague the Western part of North Carolina, Catawba County is beginning to see an impact caused by the blaze. 
In the past 24 hours, fires throughout the state have continued to intensify. Currently, the cost of the fires is more than $10 million, according to Governor Pat McCrory.
Catawba County, along with 24 other counties throughout this part of the state, have been placed under a burn ban, which went into affect on Nov. 7. 
“I don’t anticipate this ban being lifted any time soon,” said Catawba County Emergency Management Coordinator Karyn Yaussy. When the ban is lifted, citizens will be alerted through local media outlets, as well as social media avenues.
The ban can be attributed to the unusually dry conditions within the area for this time of year. Many counties in Western N.C. have gone nearly 30 days without any significant rainfall, according to the National Weather Service.
Catawba County also experienced a Code Red air quality alert yesterday, which is expected to continue throughout today and possibly later this week.
“I cannot remember the last time we were under a Code Red air quality warning,” Yaussy said. “We will be on a Code Orange sometimes over the summer but that ranking is in relation to ozone issues, not particles in the air like this.”
This air ranking means that elderly adults and children, along with people who have respiratory issues, should avoid being outside. Active adults should avoid strenuous activity outside during these conditions. 
The poor air ranking for the county stems from the fires occurring in surrounding areas. Nearly 40,000 acres have been burned in the state by nearly 20 large fires since Oct. 23.
Within the 48 hours leading up to 5:30 p.m. yesterday, there were 58 grass and wood fires reported within the county, according to Yaussy – this number includes illegal burn calls that the fire department had to attend to. 
Although none of the recent fires in Catawba County have spread into larger, potentially very harmful fires, emergency management is preparing for the worst and recommends that citizens be very cautious, according to Yaussy.
In an effort to help those departments that are actively fighting wildfires, two local fire departments – Newton and Maiden – have offered to go on standby for Burke County if they are needed. If called, the departments will aid in areas of Burke County that are being threatened by the fire, like neighborhoods and individual houses. The departments will attempt to keep the fire away from the homes while Burke County fire departments work to put out the bulk of the blaze. Catawba County also loaned a piece of equipment to Jackson County to aid in exasperating the fire, according to Yaussy.