Wildfires

A federal appeals court is taking another look at a lawsuit challenging a North Carolina county commission's practice of opening meetings with Christian prayer led by commissioners.

The full 15-judge bench of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the Rowan County prayer case on Wednesday.

Berger
North Carolina General Assembly

Updated 4:40 p.m.
A $201 million disaster relief bill won final approval in the General Assembly Wednesday and now goes to the governor.  The state Senate gave its OK to a revised version of the bill in a 49-0 vote. That bill then went back to the state House of Representatives, where it passed 108-0.  

Meanwhile, House and Senate leaders announced they're calling another special session, but they're not saying why.  

The Neuse River inundated this hog farm in Goldsboro on Wednesday.
Rick Dove / Waterkeeper Alliance

Updated 10:18 p.m.
North Carolina lawmakers reconvened for a special session Tuesday, to consider a bill that would provide $201 million in disaster relief to communities affected by flooding from Hurricane Matthew and wildfires.  The bill easily passed the House of Representatives Tuesday night and now goes to the Senate, which returns at 8 a.m. Wednesday. 

Defense lawyers have told a federal judge they'd like to present more evidence about Dylann Roof's personality and state of mind. The lawyers filed the motion Friday in connection with the federal death penalty trial, where Roof faces 33 federal counts, including hate crimes, in the shootings at Emanuel AME Church in June of last year.

"I guess I was just bored," Keith Mann of Franklin, N.C. told the U.S. Forest Service when questioned why he set two fires in Macon County.

The Forest Service says it began investigating him after he called 911 to report the second fire. After an agent began questioning him, Mann admitted it was him all along who set the fires. He told the agent he used a box of kitchen matches.

Firefighters say the Party Rock Wildfire near Chimney Rock and Lake Lure has been fully contained, thanks in part to 0.4 inches of rain that fell Monday night through Tuesday. Firefighting crews have begun packing up and dismantling their fire camps Tuesday morning as they head for home. 

Smoke hangs on mountainsides and sits in valleys. The layer behind the mountains is from the Chimney Rock fire.
David Boraks / WFAE

Unhealthy air is now covering the region, as smokes creeps east from wildfires in western North Carolina. You can see it as you walk down the street. From above, it's even more dramatic, says . WFAE environmental reporter David Boraks. He flew over the fire zone Friday and has this report:

The state Medical Examiner's Office late Monday released the autopsy of Keith Lamont Scott. It shows Scott died of gunshot wounds to the back and abdomen, but lacking in whether Scott was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the shooting. 

Wildfires in western North Carolina have burned about 40,000 acres since late October. State officials on Monday said eight major fires continue to burn in several mountain counties. Nearly 1,600 firefighters including some from out-of-state are battling the wildfires. WFAE's Mark Rumsey spoke with N.C. Forest Service spokesman Brian Haines about the ongoing efforts to contain the flames.

Gov. Pat McCrory talks to reporters after touring wildfire damage in Lake Lure Monday.
State of NC

Nearly 1,600 firefighters are now fighting wildfires that have burned 40,000 acres across western North Carolina over the past three weeks. Gov. Pat McCrory says the state has spent $10 million fighting the fires so far.

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