Wildfires ravage Southeast
- Two juveniles arrested, charged in deadly Gatlinburg wildfires
- Tennessee takes four area counties off burn ban list to aid tornado cleanup
- Rain helps with area wildfires, but Tennessee burn ban remains [videos, photos]
- Gatlinburg wildfires death toll climbs to 14; officials estimate 1,684 structures damaged or destroyed
- Nonprofits and state agencies step up relief efforts amid tornado, wildfire damage
- Man charged for allegedly intentionally setting a Sequatchie County wildfire
- Rain brings relief for wildfires
- Southern storms should ease drought, but fire threat remains
- At long last, substantial rain is expected throughout Chattanooga area
- Gov. Bill Haslam applauds wildfire fighters' efforts
- Firefighters make progress in Southeast wildfires, but threat remains
- Crews fighting large fire in northeast Alabama
- Gov. Haslam vows to pursue wildfire arsonists 'with everything we have'
- Hamilton County wildfires to cost more than $600,000
- Forestry crews prepared to miss Thanksgiving with families as they battle wildfires
- Wildfires rage on; new one pops up in North Georgia
- Gasp! Wildfires cause hacking and wheezing across the South
- Air quality improves, rain possible this weekend
- Relentless smoke spreads fear at edge of southern wildfires
- Catoosa County issues burn ban
- Many outdoor activities banned as fires burn across south
- Two men charged with arson as crews make progress quelling 3 area blazes
- Chattanooga is on target to break record for driest year in city's history
- Alabama man confesses to starting Sequatchie County fire
- Area wildfires containment increases, Flipper Bend fire 95 percent contained
- Catholic Mass offered for wildfire relief
- Fire crews hope to reach 100 percent containment on 3 area wildfires
- Wildfire smoke engulfs Chattanooga, endangering health of residents
- No rain in forecast as Chattanooga area wildfires continue to burn
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam issues 51-county burning ban
- Firefighters use hand tools to fight Chattanooga-area wildfires with no rain in sight
- Hundreds hospitalized with breathing problems amid Chattanooga-area wildfire outbreak
- Sohn: Might wildfire smoke be harbinger of days to come?
- New fires sprout in Chattanooga area as firefighters work to contain thousands of acres burning across region
- Arson suspected in most Chattanooga area wildfires
- UPDATE: Man arrested after admitting he set three wildfires that consumed 300 acres
- The latest update on the unprecedented fire season in the tri-state area
- Wildfires burning total of 9,680 acres across eastern half of Tennessee; FEMA steps in to offer aid [videos, photo galleries]
- Southern fires rage with 41.6 million now living in drought
- Wildfires continue across region with no rain imminent; some residents evacuated
- Chattanooga area wildfire smoke triggers 'Code Red' air quality alert [videos]
ATLANTA - Firefighters are gaining ground in their efforts to suppress large wildfires burning in the Southeast, but several blazes continue to creep into new areas - and investigators say more fires are being lit each day by suspected arsonists.
There are 44 uncontained large fires in the South, covering a total of more than 120,000 acres, national fire officials said Tuesday.
Arson investigations are underway in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Kentucky.
In Tennessee, firefighters have responded to 27 new fires since Friday, and 19 of them are suspected arsons, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture reported. Most of those recent blazes are relatively small, the largest being a 452-acre wildfire northwest of Knoxville.
The Southern forests have caught fire amid a relentless drought. More than 47 million people are now living in drought areas, which stretch from Oklahoma and Texas all the way east to the Carolinas and parts of Virginia, according to the latest information from the National Drought Mitigation Center.
In recent days, high winds and falling leaves have been among the toughest challenges firefighters have faced, authorities say.
"Leaves are the biggest concern for firefighters as the unseasonably late leaf fall continues to spread fresh fuel upon the fire," fire managers said in a Tuesday update on one of the South's largest wildfires, the nearly 14,000-acre Tellico Fire in western North Carolina.
More than 5,000 people from local, state and federal agencies have been battling the wildfires across the South, authorities said. The U.S. Forest Service is investigating what caused many of the larger blazes.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has reached out to the Forest Service, offering to help investigate, Special Agent Larry Priester said. So far, he said, the agency has not joined the probe. "Their main focus now is just getting the fires contained," he said.
In North Carolina, most of the large fires burning in the western part of the state are suspected arsons, authorities have said. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for them.
Some wildfire arsonists set fires for the thrill of it, while others are motivated by social or political causes, according to documents from the U.S. Fire Administration.
"We've had people in the past who said 'I like the lights of the fire,'" said Brian Haines, a spokesman with the North Carolina Forest Service. "People have strange reasons for starting fires."
There have been a handful of arrests in some of the smaller fires, including a man in Kentucky whose hobby was to broadcast weather reports on social media. He was charged with arson after police said he admitted to starting a wildfire to draw attention to his selfie videos on Facebook.
The fear is that whoever has started many of the large blazes might continue to set more fires.
"Based upon my primitive information on this issue, people who tend to set fires may want to do it again," North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory told reporters at a news conference last week.