Chattanooga Times Free Press

Fire crews battle two wildfires in Cherokee

- BY BEN BENTON STAFF WRITER

Cherokee National Forest fire crews are fighting two large wildfires in the forest’s north and south zones southeast of Tellico Plains and near Del Rio in the East Tennessee mountains.

Combined, at least 85 acres of forest were burning Tuesday, U.S. Forest Service spokespers­on Tammy Robinson said in a statement.

The August Hotshots Suppressio­n team is en route to assist forest service fire crews on what officials are calling the “Long Branch Fire” where around 35 acres are ablaze about 10 miles southeast of Tellico Plains. Four fire engines from national forests in North Carolina, a bulldozer and two firefighti­ng helicopter­s are being used to fight the fire, Robinson said.

“The fire is human caused,” she said of the Long Branch blaze. Hazards include snags — dead, still-standing trees that can help fire spread when they burn — and trails in the area that may be threatened, she said.

Glenn Lintemuth, who was working at the post office in the Coker Creek Welcome Center Wednesday morning, about 10 miles south of Tellico Plains, said rain had been falling throughout the morning Wednesday and the Coker Creek Fire Department hadn’t had any nearby calls that he’d heard.

“There’s no sign of smoke,” said Lintemuth, who also runs Coker Creek Crafts next door. The National Weather Service is forecastin­g clearing skies Wednesday with cool temperatur­es and dry weather predicted through Friday.

Northeast of Del Rio, another blaze dubbed the “Meadow Creek Fire” is about 50 acres, where a fire engine from the national forests in Alabama, a bulldozer and two helicopter­s are working to extinguish the wildfire. The Cherokee Hotshots Suppressio­n team and the Tennessee Division of Forestry are assisting there, Robinson said.

“Fire crews were able to cool the ridge line and slow down the fire,” she said. “Currently, the cause of the fire is unknown.”

Both fires are burning in timber, no structures are threatened and there is no containmen­t, according to officials.

Smoke may be visible, Robinson said, noting wildfires can produce high quantities of smoke.

“During wildfire activity, firefighte­rs can do little to reduce smoke impacts,” she said.

Affected communitie­s should remain aware of smoke advisories and conditions, she said. Find the current air quality nearby at airnow.gov.

 ?? STAFF FILE PHOTO ?? This photo from June 2012 shows the “Powerline” fire as it burns atop Chilhowee Mountain in the southern zone of the Cherokee National Forest. On Wednesday, fire crews were battling two blazes in the Cherokee National Forest, one southeast of Tellico Plains and another near Del Rio.
STAFF FILE PHOTO This photo from June 2012 shows the “Powerline” fire as it burns atop Chilhowee Mountain in the southern zone of the Cherokee National Forest. On Wednesday, fire crews were battling two blazes in the Cherokee National Forest, one southeast of Tellico Plains and another near Del Rio.

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