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Virginia's governor declares a state of emergency over wildfires

This photo provided by the Virginia Department of Forestry shows firefighters trying to stop the western spread of the Quaker Run Wildfire in Madison County, Va.
Virginia Department of Forestry via AP
This photo provided by the Virginia Department of Forestry shows firefighters trying to stop the western spread of the Quaker Run Wildfire in Madison County, Va.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has declared a state of emergency over ongoing wildfires in the state, singling out two fires of particular concern.

Youngkin's emergency declaration was issued on Monday and is effective for 30 days.

The order is "to assist firefighter response efforts on two wildfires around the state due to dry conditions and high winds, both of which are common during the ongoing fall fire season. These fires may continue to pose a threat to public health and safety," Youngkin's office said in a press release on Tuesday.

The Quaker Run Fire is burning near and partially inside Shenandoah National Park and had burned 2,480 acres as of Tuesday evening, according to a map from Virginia's Department of Forestry. It was 40% contained as of Tuesday evening.

Shenandoah National Park imposed a ban on campfires and all other fires inside the park on Tuesday.

"The fire is in the central part of the park near the eastern boundary. Firefighters have established containment lines around the entire perimeter; however fire has breached in a couple of areas which are being addressed," the park said in a statement on Tuesday.

The governor's office also singled out the Tuggles Gap Fire in southern Virginia's Patrick County. It had burned 500 acres and was 10% contained as of Tuesday evening.

Most of Virginia has been experiencing unusually dry conditions and large swaths are in moderate drought or severe drought conditions, which fuel wildfires.

Officials in western North Carolina's Henderson County declared a state of emergency on Sunday over a wildfire there. Local officials in eastern Kentucky also declared a state of emergency as six wildfires are burning in Harlan County.

Climate change is causing intense wildfires to become more frequent.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.