Roundup of wildfire activity in the eastern United States

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.)

North Carolina
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.

New Jersey
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.

Wildfire briefing, March 3, 3014

Wildland firefighter dies in Tennessee

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?

Sanibel boat fire
Boat fire south of Sanibel Island

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.

Wildfire at Stones River National Battlefield

Stones River National Battlefield wildfire
Stones River National Battlefield wildfire, November 20, 2013. NPS photo by Ranger Gib.

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.

Stones River National Battlefield wildfire
Stones River National Battlefield wildfire, November 20, 2013. NPS photo.

Fire burns dozens of structures in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Pigeon Forge fire map
Map showing the approximate location of the fire near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, as detected by the MODIS satellite at 3:45 a.m. ET, March 18, 2013.

UPDATE at 7 p.m. ET, March 18, 2013:

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.

Thanks go out to Bill and Dick

Wildfire morning briefing, November 25, 2012

Fern Lake Fire 10-11-2012
Fern Lake Fire October 11, 2012. NPS photo by Ann Schonlau

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.

Other articles on Wildfire Today about the Fern Lake Fire

Cameras to watch for fires in Oregon

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.

Thanks go out to Dick

Wildfire briefing, November 19, 2012

Firefighters discover dog fighting operation

Hawkins Co Fire in Tn, Photo by Hawkins Co EMA
Fire in Hawkins County, Tennessee. Photo by Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency

Firefighters working to put out a wildfire near Rogersville, Tennessee had to suspend their suppression operations after they discovered a facility threatened by the fire that housed dogs and roosters used for dog and cock fighting. Firefighters rescued about 40 of the animals. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Times News:

Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson told the Times-News Sunday the suspected operation is now the subject of a criminal investigation, and although no arrests had been made he hoped to be able to release more information about that on Monday.

Murrell added, “It put a damper on the firefighting efforts last (Saturday) night because everybody had to pull off until we found out what it was. Then it took most available law enforcement and fire (personnel) to try to get all the dogs out.”

As of Sunday night the fire, which started on Thursday, had burned about 1,800 acres.

Petition to hire the DC-10 air tankers

The managers of the Facebook page for the DC-10 air tankers have organized a petition drive designed to convince the US Forest Service to award a long-term contract for the DC-10s. More information is at our Fire Aviation web site.

Coal seam fire burns 1,000 acres

A wildfire that started from a mostly underground fire in a coal seam has burned 1,000 acres of land in Boone County, West Virginia. Firefighters are suppressing the fire using leaf blowers, rakes, and dozers. Trees that were down as a result of a summer wind storm and then Hurricane Sandy have added fuel to the fire and complicated access to the area. We have reported on numerous other coal seam fires over the years.

Pole Creek Fire affected the economy of Sisters, Oregon

Some wildfires may enhance the economy of a rural area by spending money at local businesses. But too often tourists stay away in droves or in the case of the Pole Creek Fire near Sisters, Oregon, population 2,000, the dense smoke in the community forced some residents to temporarily leave the area. An article in a Firewise publication reported that even though 800 firefighters were housed at an incident base a few miles down the road, in September restaurants had their revenue decrease by 40 to 50 percent. Stores saw less business and motels experienced reservation cancellations up to five weeks out.

In September we reported on a study about the economic effects of large wildfires which showed that on average, the US Forest Service spent six percent of wildfire suppression funding in the county where the fires occurred. Amounts of local spending varied from zero to 25 percent.

The Pole Cree Fire started from lightning on September 9 and burned 26,795 acres before it was contained October 20.

Fire management decisions affect local communities

When land management agencies make decisions about using less than aggressive initial attack strategies, attempt to manage fires “on the cheap”,  or allow a fire to burn naturally for weeks or months, they may not accurately realize the long term economic and health effects those decisions can have on the local population. These may or may not have been issues in the management of the Pole Creek Fire, but they are too often mentioned as factors that have crept into fire management over the last decade.

World Bank says temperatures may rise 7.2 degrees

The World Bank reported that the planet may see temperatures rise by 4 degrees Celsius, or about 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, resulting in more wildfires, extreme heat waves, a decline in food supplies and a ‘life-threatening’ rise in sea level.


Thanks go out to Dick