WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Emergency crews continue to battle a wildfire in the Powder Horn Mountain area of Watauga County, fire officials said.

Watauga County Emergency Services said residents affected were able to evacuate to a general shelter opened by the Deep Gap Fire Department. It’s about 9 miles east of Boone.

The fire began around 6 p.m. Wednesday and has grown from there.

The shelter was staffed by the American Red Cross. Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency to help fight wildfires in the western part of the state, where an outdoor burning ban is in place along most of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“I am grateful for the first responders who have jumped into action to help combat the ongoing wildfires in western North Carolina,” Cooper said. “The fires and the continued droughts across the state pose a risk to public health and safety and we want to ensure that all residents and their property remain safe and protected.”

Burn bans have been issued for 30 North Carolina counties as the drought and dry spell continue. An unusually dry fall is combining with above-average temperatures to increase fire danger, especially in the mountains, officials said.

Fire officials told Queen City News that the fire’s main fuel source is the fallen leaves and other brittle fallen vegetation.

The area is in moderate to severe drought and conditions are getting worse. A cold front moving through at the end of the week should lower temperatures, but with only spotty showers expected, the fire danger will likely continue.

Forestry officials reported six active wildfires west of Interstate 77 including what they are calling the Poplar Drive Fire in Henderson County, which has burned a home and a cabin and is threatening other structures.

“The current wildfires, combined with the ongoing drought and weather forecast have increased our risk for additional fire activity, especially in the western part of our state,” said Will Ray, Director of NC Emergency Management. “This emergency declaration will help facilitate getting the needed resources to combat these wildfires, to save lives and property, and to support our local jurisdictions and agencies, as well as state partners who are engaged in fighting these fires.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.