Progress made on some wildfires in the South, while others still grow

Above: Firefighters operate leaf blowers on the Chestnut Knob Fire. The fire is 6 miles south of Morganton, NC and at the last report grew by 9 acres. Undated and  uncredited InciWeb photo.

While several large fires in the southern states are still actively spreading, firefighters have made progress on dozens of others.

On Monday the Southern Geographic Area reported 52 large uncontained fires, for a total of 133,146 acres. There were 185 new fires of all sizes for 1,477 acres; most of those were suppressed while still small. That was considered “moderate” initial attack activity.

Firefighting resources assigned in the South:

  • 78 aircraft
  • 83 hand crews
  • 1,011 pieces of equipment
  • 4,476 personnel
map wildfires south
Map showing the location of some of the large fires in the southern states. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:22 am November 21, 2016.

On Sunday evening four fires reported 24-hour growth of more than 100 acres:

Rock Mountain Fire

Map Rock Mountain Fire
Map of the perimeter of the Rock Mountain Fire at 6 p.m. ET November 20, 2016.

The Rock Mountain Fire that started about 10 miles northwest of Clayton Georgia has spread north into North Carolina. At the last report it had burned 11,287 acres, an increase of 862 acres. On Sunday it was very active, moving through the hardwood leaf litter in all directions at a rate of about one mile each day. Evacuations are still in place for Dream Catcher Cove north of Tate City, Georgia.

On Saturday strong winds pushed the blaze across the Appalachian Trail on the north end of the fire. Winds blowing leaves still falling from trees are creating problems for firefighters, covering existing firelines and causing some areas to re-burn.

East Miller Cove

The East Miller Cove Fire is just east of Walland, Tennessee, 16 miles south of Knoxville. On Sunday evening the incident management team reported it had burned 1,492 acres, an increase of 1,292 acres, threatening 100 structures north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Big Branch

The Big Branch Fire is in southeast Kentucky three miles south of Roxana and five miles northeast of Cumberland. It has burned 625 acres, an increase of 175 acres.

Oakwood 1 Fire

This fire is in Arkansas, listed at 468 acres, an increase of 278. No other information is available.

Chestnut Knob Fire
A firefighter on the Chestnut Knob Fire. InciWeb.

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For the latest articles at Wildfire Today about how smoke from the wildfires is affecting various locations in the South, check out the articles tagged “smoke”.

Rapidly spreading fire west of Gatlinburg, TN

Above: Map showing the location of the East Miller Cove Fire at 10:30 p.m. ET November 118, 2016.

The East Miller Cove Fire 16 air miles west of Gatlinburg, Tennessee spread very rapidly Friday night as a cold front passed through with winds shifting from south to west gusted at 12 to 23 MPH. However the nearby Indian Grave weather station in Great Smoky Mountains National Park recorded 0.12 inches of rain after 6 a.m. on Saturday.

When a mapping aircraft overflew the fire at 10:30 p.m. Friday the fire had burned 700 acres and was very active. Data from a heat sensing satellite at 3:04 a.m. Saturday indicated that it was more than 1,000 acres.

The East Miller Cove Fire is just east of Walland, Tennessee, five miles north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and 16 air miles south of Knoxville.

On Friday hundreds of students at the Walland elementary school were ordered to evacuate.

At least one Blackhawk helicopter from the Tennessee National Guard assisted firefighters on the ground by dropping water.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning on Saturday for strong winds and low humidities. The forecast calls for temperatures on Saturday in the high 40s, 45 percent relative humidity, 60 percent cloud cover, 15 mph west to northwest winds gusting at 23 mph, and the probability of rain decreasing to 4 percent by 1 p.m. Sunday should be cooler, drier, and with 8 mph winds out of the northwest.

Many locations in the South have had very little rain over the last two months, leaving the live and dead vegetation very dry. Below is an excerpt from a Saturday morning article at Knoxnews:

…Nothing in the weekend weather looks as if it will be much help to firefighters, according to regional safety officer James Gregory, who is also up from Florida to help fight the Tennessee wildfires. He is a Maryville native who knows east Tennessee parks and wilderness well.

“The ground cover, the layer of twigs and branches and grass and vegetation that normally helps keep trees upright during a fire, is so dry and brittle, it can’t hold the trees in place so they fall over,” Gregory explained. “When a burning tree falls over, of course that spreads the flames. Even live trees that aren’t on fire fall over because the drought has dried out the forest so much.”

The article also said the rain “had almost no impact” on the fires in east Tennessee.