Carter County wildfire spreads to 300 acres; more crews coming to region to help


CARTER COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – A state forestry spokesperson confirmed that several state and local firefighters are currently battling a forest fire that has reached 300 acres overnight in the Railroad Grade community in Carter County.

So far, the blaze has not been contained.

According to James Heaton with the Tennessee Division of Forestry, the fire has destroyed several vehicles in the area and an air tanker has been dropping retardant to try to control the fire.

Heaton said the cause of the fire is arson.

“No evacuations were conducted, however, there were some intense moments for some of the homeowners,” Heaton said. “Right now we’re looking at keeping the fire away from the structures, the residences which are down low on the mountain, and trying to contain the fire more to the top of the mountain.”

Tuesday morning crews resumed operations to contained the fire with equipment including bulldozers, helicopters, and assistance from crews that will be arriving from Florida.

In addition, Carter County will get assistance from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

No buildings are threatened by the fire, but it is close to a prison.

Kassie Erwin, who lives nearby, said she’s seen a lot of smoke from the fire.

“Tons and tons of smoke,” Erwin said. “We’ve heard loud booms from cars exploding.”

“I’m definitely worried about it spreading and harming someone’s personal property or endangering someone’s life,” she said. “This mountain has been on fire maybe once a year since I’ve lived here, but not this bad in a while,” she said.

Heaton added that, “People that live in the general vicinity of the fire (to) be alert throughout the night. If there is a problem near their home, just dial 911 and the local fire department, as well as forestry officials, will respond back to the area.”

Areas of concern throughout the night include homes located off of Old Railroad Grade Road, as well as the prison.

“The prison is not threatened at this time, but there is going to be a lot of smoke in the area that landowners and homeowners are going to be contending with.”

He said the fire is currently moving in all directions and said it’s a difficult process containing the fire.

“We use heavy equipment, bulldozers, and hand crews to try to contain the fire,” Heaton said. “We have to build a little road or path all the way around that fire, and, in a terrain like this, it is very intense. This fire could grow several hundred acres through the night. Probably by morning, we’re looking at … 300 acres.”

Crews are in the process of closing part of the Appalachian Trail from Moreland Gap shelter to Tower Road.

Firefighters with the Tennessee Division of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, as well as several local volunteer fire departments initially were called around 2 p.m. on Monday to help combat the fire, but more firefighters were brought in at daylight Tuesday to help.

Also, crews are working to contain a smaller 50-acrea fire in the Elk Mills community. That fire is about 75% contained.Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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