East Tennessee firefighters urge caution as dry conditions continue


ANDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Concerns are continuing to grow as East Tennessee experiences record high temperatures and the continued lack of rain. Firefighters stressing the increased risk of wildfires.

On Thursday, in East Knox County, firefighters with Rural Metro rushed to a brush fire they say spread from a trash fire. Over in Sevier County, also on Thursday, firefighters worked extinguishing a three acre brush fire in the Johnson Hollow area.

Related: High temps, lack of rain bump up Tennessee burn permit season

Firefighters say it’s currently fire season in East Tennessee.

“It has to do with the heat, high temperatures and your lower humidity. It just makes perfect dry conditions with the grass drying out,” said Chief Ambrea Peters of the Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department.

Her fire crews are always prepared with tools to fight brush fires, “You never know if it’s gong to be something really small like a cooking fire someone was doing that may have gotten a little bit out of control or if we’re going to be going into the woods, inviting forestry to come help us fight the fire.”

Related: Brush fire contained at Petree’s Tree Service in Blount County

Currently the state does not have any burn bans in East Tennessee.

“It’s very familiar to 2016 when we had the Gatlinburg wildfires. It seems like we’re, and I have heard, that we have similar drought conditions,” said Chief Peters.

Firefighters say it’s worrisome that we can’t completely prevent brush fires while hot and dry conditions persist.

“It can be as easy as someone flicking a cigarette butt out a window going down the interstate or just down the road, believe it or not something so small is what starts most of the brush fires or grass fires,” explained Chief Peters.

There are precautions we can take if you plan on doing an open burn:

  • Check local restrictions and obtain a burn permit
  • Notify your neighbors
  • Keep water and tools close by
  • Establish firebreaks
  • Watch the weather
  • Don’t burn more than you can handle
  • Stay with your fire

“Make what the forestry department calls a firewise house, by keeping a 30-foot perimeter, keep your brush picked up and if you have sprinklers, water your yard,” said Chief Peters.

The state says mornings and early evenings are usually good times to burn because winds are calmer and the humidity is higher.

“Use your head, check before you burn and just be careful,” added Chief Peters.

We checked the Tennessee Forestry Department’s wildfire report, in 2019 so far East Tennessee has experienced 101 wildfires with 1,992-acres burned.

To apply for a Tennessee burn permit or for more information, click here.

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