UNICOI, Tenn. (WJHL) – The recent rainfall in the area is not enough to keep wildfires at bay. According to James Heaton, public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service, the Cherokee National Forest is still considered to be in a moderate drought.
“What we want to emphasize is that although we did see a small amount of rain, this rain by no means has taken us out of the fire danger,” Heaton said. “It’s only bought a few days of less fire activity. So, with a little sunshine, a little wind, we’ll be right back in extreme fire activity in just a few days.”
Heaton said most of the north end of the Cherokee National Forest received less than a quarter inch of rain.
He said the biggest challenge they’ve faced this fire season is the dry conditions.
“We are in a moderate drought category right now,” Heaton said. “And so those drought conditions make our fires burn much hotter, much faster than they normally would.”
Heaton said firefighters are taking advantage of the wet conditions right now as they work to contain active fires.
One of those active fires is the Tweed Fire on the Greene and Cocke County line.
As of Friday at 2 p.m., it has been only 5% contained across 80 acres.
“They are working to further containment on that fire and hopefully they can make good use of the weather we have today to get that fire a little bit more contained before it dries out again,” Heaton said.
He said they have been using helicopters and bulldozers to help contain the wildfire.
“Most of the fires we’ve experienced so far this year have been human-caused fires and many are still under investigation at this time,” Heaton said.
Burn permits are required before igniting open fires during fire season in Tennessee. Some counties and cities have their on restrictions on burning.