​Forest Fire Update, Multi-County Burn Ban

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

As of Nov. 16, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry reported 16 active fires burning in the Franklin-Grundy-Marion region of the Cumberland District of Tennessee: two in Franklin County, 11 in Grundy County, and three in Marion County.
Last weekend forestry service firefighters battled an 80-acre blaze of unknown origins in the gorge between Clifftops and Laurel Lake and a smaller fire attributed to arson in the Haven of Rest-Lankford Town Road vicinity of Tracy City. Two new fires broke out Sunday, a field fire in the Broadview-Belvidere area of Franklin County and a fire in the gulch on the Grundy County-Sequatchie County line. Tuesday, new fires broke out in the Gizzard Creek, Clouse Hill, and Gruetli-Laager areas of Grundy County and the Cades Cove and Prentice Cooper State Forest areas of Marion County.
Statewide, 67 active forest fires are burning, impacting 15,914 acres, with more than 20 new fires since last Friday. On Nov. 10 the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency declared a Level 3 State of Emergency. On Nov. 15, Governor Bill Haslam banned all fires including campfires and trash burning in 51 counties, Franklin, Grundy and Marion among the counties named.
“All fires in the Franklin-Grundy-Marion region are currently contained,” said Steve Rymer, Service Technician heading up Grundy County Forest Service. But Rymer cautions, “Fires from two weeks ago are still smoking. With dry leaves dropping from the trees, there’s the possibility of reburn. We’re monitoring all sites.”
Franklin-Grundy-Marion firefighters have responded to more than 40 blazes in the past month, impacting more than 3,000 acres, with 893 acres still actively burning in Marion County, 231 acres in Grundy County and 16 acres in Franklin County.
“I’ve only had one day off since Oct. 7,” said Travis Lawyer, a dozer operator with the Franklin County Forestry Service. “People phone in and don’t understand why we won’t issue them a burn permit to burn leaves. It’s so dry the root systems are burning off and trees are falling.”
Each county forestry station is staffed with an initial attack crew of five to six firefighters, who assist in the neighboring counties as needed. Franklin and Grundy counties recently received backup support from north and west Tennessee forestry service firefighters.
In the past month, more than 6,000 acres have burned in Bledsoe, Hamilton, Monroe and Sequatchie counties south and east of Sewanee, contributing to the smoke lingering in the air from local fires. Active fires in Bledsoe and Hamilton counties impacting more than 3,200 acres remain uncontained.
On Nov. 11, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) issued a Code Orange air quality alert for the Chattanooga metropolitan area. A Code Orange Alert means “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children. As of Nov. 16, the Air Quality Index map showed Sewanee and the surrounding plateau region in the Orange Alert or Red Alert category, a Red Alert meaning “everyone may begin experiencing ill health effects.”
The Tenn. Forestry Service has established Incident Management Posts in Kimball, Cookeville and Knoxville to coordinate firefighting efforts. On Nov. 10, three 20-person federal hand crews from Florida reported for service at the Kimball post.
A late October fire in the Raven’s Point area of South Cumberland State park destroyed a bridge and stair case on the new reroute part of the trail. The fire is still smoldering, and the trail is closed along the reroute area until further notice, said Park Ranger George Shinn.
“There is no end in sight,” said Rymer stressing the severity of the situation. Long range forecasts show no significant precipitation in Tennessee through the remainder of 2016.
As of Nov. 1, the Sewanee Utility District reported only 23 inches of rainfall for the year, less than the great drought of 2007, when the area received 25 inches for the same time period.
Rymer estimated 70 percent of the fires were arson, 30 percent were debris fires, and a few were caused by equipment sparks.
“Most of the fire investigators in the state are working the area,” Rymer said. “They are taking the issue more seriously than in the past.” Officials recently brought charges against an arsonist responsible for Sequatchie County fires.
Violation of a burn ban is considered reckless burning and is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a fine of $2,500 and/or up to 11 months 29 days in jail.
2023 June
2023 May
2023 April
2023 March
2023 February
2023 January
2022 December
2022 November
2022 October
2022 September
2022 August
2022 July
2022 June
2022 May
2022 April
2022 March
2022 February
2022 January
2021 December
2021 November
2021 October
2021 September
2021 August
2021 July
2021 June
2021 May
2021 April
2021 March
2021 February
2021 January
2020 December
2020 November
2020 October
2020 September
2020 August
2020 July
2020 June
2020 May
2020 April
2020 March
2020 February
2020 January
2019 December
2019 November
2019 October
2019 September
2019 August
2019 July
2019 June
2019 May
2019 April
2019 March
2019 February
2019 January
2018 December
2018 November
2018 October
2018 September
2018 August
2018 July
2018 June
2018 May
2018 April
2018 March
2018 February
2018 January
2017 December
2017 November
2017 October
2017 September
2017 August
2017 July
2017 June
2017 May
2017 April
2017 March
2017 February
2017 January
2016 December
2016 November
2016 October
2016 September
2016 August
2016 July
2016 June
2016 May
2016 April
2016 March
2016 February
2016 January
2015 December
2015 November
2015 October
2015 September
2015 August
2015 July
2015 June
2015 May
2015 April
2015 March
2015 February
2015 January
2014 December
2014 November
2014 October
2014 September
2014 August
2014 July
2014 June
2014 May
2014 April
2014 March
2014 February
2014 January
2013 December
2013 November
2013 October
2013 September
2013 August
2013 July
2013 June
2013 May
2013 April
2013 March
2013 February
2013 January
2012 December
2012 November
2012 October
2012 September
2012 August
2012 July
2012 June
2012 May
2012 April
2012 March
2012 February
2012 January
2011 December
2011 November
2011 October
2011 September
2011 August
2011 July
2011 June
2011 May
2011 April
2011 March
2011 February
2011 January
2010 December
2010 November
2010 October
2010 September
2010 August
2010 July
2010 June
2010 May