- Associated Press - Friday, November 18, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Environmental officials warned Friday that the unhealthy air spread by 15 North Carolina wildfires burning more than 45,000 acres of land is extending across most of the state.

Wildfires burning in western North Carolina could carry high levels of air pollution as far away as the state’s Research Triangle region through Saturday, the North Carolina Division of Air Quality said. Residents in the mountains, foothills and Piedmont regions could be breathing unhealthy air, depending on wind directions.

High winds expected across western North Carolina on Saturday will push smoke out of the state’s mountains, improving air quality there but likely increasing the fire risk, the National Forest Service said. There’s been no rain in the area for 46 days.

Meanwhile, residents in two mountain counties who were forced to evacuate due to the fires will be allowed to return to their homes Saturday.

The blazes have been beaten back enough that the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office says residents of about 35 evacuated homes will be allowed home if they can prove they live around the town of Bat Cave or along Highway 9. All evacuated Buncombe County residents will be allowed back into their homes without a re-entry permit.

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