Many outdoor activities banned as fires burn across South

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Starting campfires, lighting fireworks and smoking cigarettes are among the outdoor activities being banned across the South as fires burn in forests stressed by drought.

Even parking a car off-road is prohibited for fear that a hot tailpipe could ignite dry leaves below.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Adam Rondeau has said the agency is tracking wildfires that have burned a total of 112,000 acres across the South. That includes a north Georgia fire that's burned an area the size of Manhattan.

RELATED: North Georgia wildfire reaches more than 23,000 acres

The Tennessee Valley Authority issued a burn ban Tuesday on its public lands across Tennessee and in parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia. The authority said its ban applies to anything that might produce an open flame.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, meanwhile, banned outdoor burning outright in more than half of the state's counties through December 15.

Also, two men were arrested Monday on charges related to setting separate fires along roadsides in Tennessee. Of the 1,238 wildfires in the state so far this year, officials suspect arson in almost half of them.

RELATED: Relentless smoke spreads fear at edge of southern wildfires

In Alabama, Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen said state officers are investigating two of nearly 1,100 statewide wildfires as possible arson. No arrests have been made, but officers have issued misdemeanor citations for allegedly violating the statewide no-burn order.

Smoke from the fires has caused unhealthy breathing conditions in many places.

In South Carolina, the Department of Health and Environmental Control issued a code red alert for 25 counties along and west of Interstate 77 through to Orangeburg County. DHEC said everyone should limit their time outdoors if possible, especially people with respiratory issues.

RELATED: North Georgia wildfire prompting health concerns

Smoke has also cast a haze over the Atlanta skyline in recent days.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has banned the ignition of all fireworks in much of the state due to the wildfire risk. Fire officials said the largest active wildfire in the South has now burned more than 19,000 acres in the north Georgia mountains — an area larger than New York's Manhattan borough.

RELATED: Gov. Deal bans fireworks in much of drought-stricken Georgia

The fires in North Carolina now cover in excess of 40,000 acres. Federal and state forestry officials said Tuesday that cloudy conditions allowed firefighters to make progress on containment.

MORE: Church helps firefighters battling wildfires in north Georgia

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