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Wildfires close Chimney Rock, other state parks

Chimney Rock State Park and other state parks in the N.C. mountains are closed because of nearby wildfires or to deploy employees to the firefighting effort, the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation said Friday.

Several state parks in western North Carolina have been closed to allow additional staff and resources to be deployed to fight wildfires in South Mountains State Park and in and around Chimney Rock State Park, the

In addition to those parks, where fires have burned approximately 1,000 acres in both locations, the division has closed New River, Gorges, Elk Knob, Lake James and Mount Mitchell state parks and Mount Jefferson State Natural Area. People planning to visit other state parks in the western part of the state are advised to check the division's web site at http://www.ncparks.gov/ before making the trip. The parks will reopen when the fires are contained or extinguished and staff are able to return to their assigned parks. A handful of staff will remain on duty in the closed parks for security purposes.

"It is never an easy decision to close parks, but our utmost priority is the protection of life and property in the parks and the surrounding communities," Mike Murphy, director of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, said. "The dedicated park rangers, maintenance staff and other staff from our agency are working diligently and cooperatively with partner agencies and the local communities as part of this effort."

The division has also expanded its burning ban on all fire, including charcoal, to all parks west of Interstate 95.