Above: Satellite photo showing smoke from wildfires in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, November 10, 2016.
Many wildfires are still burning in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and several other states in the southeastern United States. On Thursday much of the smoke was being blown into the northern half of Georgia, potentially causing health problems for sensitive people.
The primary culprit for the wildfire activity is a lack of precipitation. Many areas in the southeast have not received any significant rain in weeks. It has been more than 70 days for some locations in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina. This has resulted in many wildfires breaking out in the last month.
The state with the most active fires is North Carolina, but the largest fire currently burning in the south is in Georgia, the 10,336-acre Rough Ridge Fire in the northern part of the state. Caused by lightning on October 16, it is being fought by 296 personnel, 9 hand crews, 2 helicopters, 7 engines, and 2 dozers.
While most areas in the western United States, with the exception of parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, wait for their fuels and weather to dry out, many firefighters in the east have been busy lately. The Intelligence section at the National Interagency Fire Center is too busy this time of the year to issue a daily Situation Report, so we assembled information about a number of fires east of the Mississippi River.
A prescribed fire conducted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) that got out of control in Blount County on Wednesday has burned 400 to 500 acres as of Thursday morning. TWRA officials said the wind picked up unexpectedly while they were treating a unit in the Foothills Wildlife Management area.
A fire in the Cherokee National Forest has burned 150 acres six miles north of Unicoi. Additional aircraft, dozers, engines, and firefighters have been ordered. (The tweet below is about this fire.)
Mike Martin’s brush pile he was burning behind his house Wednesday near Etowah escaped as winds blew flames onto his porch. He went to grab two five-gallon buckets of water, but by the time he returned it was too late. He tried to go into the house to retrieve his car keys, but the fire was too hot. Both the Ford SUV and the house were destroyed even though the fire department responded quickly from their station two miles away.
A fire in the Nature Conservancy’s Nags Head Woods Preserve blackened about 250 acres on the Outer Banks. It started on March 22 and spread for three days.
A wind-driven brush fire burned 86 acres in Port Republic Wednesday afternoon. With help from two water-dropping helicopters, about 30 firefighters stopped the spread.
A wildland firefighter with the Tennessee Division of Forestry became ill and died while preparing to respond to a vegetation fire in Tennessee. Jerry Campbell, 61, collapsed while getting ready to deploy to a wildfire in the Cherokee National Forest Friday night. He was transported to the Newport Medical/Tennova Healthcare Center where he was pronounced dead at 1:45 a.m. Saturday morning.
Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Campbell’s family and coworkers.
Wildlife or wildfire?
Occasionally people who are not that familiar with wildland fire write or say “wildLIFE” when they mean “wildFIRE”. An article in Florida’s Cape Coral Daily Breeze reported that a boat from the “Fish & Wildfire Commission” responded to a boat fire three miles south of Sanibel Island in the Gulf of Mexico on March 3. But in a subsequent paragraph they referred to a craft from “Fish and Wildlife”.
John N. Maclean teaches course in Iowa
John N. Maclean will be teaching a week-long course in northwest Iowa in May about the history of wildland fire, from the Big Burn of 1910 to the Yarnell Hill Fire of 2013. The Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, a biological field station administered through the University of Iowa, will be offering the new course with a working title of “Causes and Consequences of Fatal Wildfires” offered by Mr. Maclean, author of “Fire on the Mountain” and three other books on wildfire. Scholarships for room and board are available. More information.
I admit that I had to look it up to find out where it was, but Stones River National Battlefield near Murfreesboro, Tennessee had a wildfire in the park on Wednesday. Apparently they suppressed it with the help of the local fire department without too much drama. The park has an active prescribed fire program, but this one was not planned.
Ashley McDonald, public information officer for Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department, said the fire burned about nine acres.
The fire is contained, thanks in part to some rain on Monday. Most of the firefighters have been released. The number of structures burned has been raised to 50. Below is a video from Knoxville’s WATE broadcast early Monday morning:
Originally published at 10 a.m. Monday at 10 a.m. ET
A fire in eastern Tennessee has burned hundreds of acres and approximately 35 large rental structures in Pigeon Forge between Gatlinburg and Knoxville. In what looks like a carbon copy of Saturday’s fire in Horry County, South Carolina, the fire began in a structure and then spread to the vegetation, eventually igniting dozens of large rental cabins. In photos, the structures appear to have multiple guest units. Black Hawk helicopters from the Tennessee National Guard assisted firefighters by dropping water dipped out of Douglas Lake and other sources.
Estimates on the size of the fire, which is burning outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, range from 145 to 300 acres.
Additional resources ordered for Colorado’s Fern Lake Fire
A large Type 1 helicopter and six smokejumpers have been ordered for the Fern Lake Fire which has been burning in Rocky Mountain National Park since October 9 eight miles west of Estes Park, Colorado. The jumpers will fill overhead positions on the fire.
Dry and unseasonably warm weather has contributed to the fire spreading in recent days to a total of 1,200 acres. For the month of November, the area has only received 0.01″ of precipitation. A record was recently set for the highest Energy Release Component (fire danger index) recorded for this time of year. The weather forecast for the next seven days calls for more dry weather, except for a 10 percent chance of rain on Monday.
Little direct action has been taken on the fire due to steep terrain, hazardous trees, heavy fuel loads, and the difficulty in extracting a firefighter should an injury occur.
Two web cameras are being installed to watch for wildfires near Lake Chinook in Central Oregon. Firefighters will be able to access the images on their computers or cell phones, according to the Bend Bulletin. The Oregon Department of Forestry has plans for eight web cams in Grant, Hood River, Wasco and Wheeler counties.
Dogs rescued that were found by firefighters
The dogs that were part of a dog fighting operation discovered by firefighters while suppressing a fire near Rogersville, Tennessee are being rescued. Personnel with Animal Rescue Corps have removed 65 dogs from the facility in Cheatham County. Firefighters had to suspend their suppression operations after they discovered the facility threatened by the fire that housed dogs and roosters used for dog and cock fighting.
Opinion: how to reduce cost of wildfires
An opinion piece at the Denver Post has some suggestions on how to hold down the increasing costs of suppressing wildfires in the west. Here is an excerpt:
…For example, mapping areas at high risk of fires and landowner education of the costs of building in the WUI must expand.
The federal government also should provide technical assistance and incentives to local governments to direct future building away from the WUI. At the same time, Congress could limit or restrict mortgage deductions for homes in the WUI, while also allowing insurance companies to charge higher premiums in fire-prone areas.