Wildland fire burns through 55 acres in Smokies
By Wes Wade | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A wildland fire believed to have started from a lightning strike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park earlier this week burned through about 55 acres before its containment Thursday night, officials said.
Townsend Volunteer Fire Chief Don Stallions said a report of a possible fire in the mountains was called in Wednesday night and that firefighters initially had problems locating the blaze. When they located the area from Foothills Parkway, it appeared to have burned out, Stallions said.
A crew of Townsend firefighters and Park Service staff visited the area — a remote location about two miles in the back of the valley behind Wesley Woods United Methodist Camp — at around 1 p.m. Thursday.
At that point the Tennessee Division of Forestry was called in to help battle the blaze. Firefighters worked from about 2 p.m. until 11 p.m. Thursday controlling the fire.
“It’s still burning, but it is contained and it’s probably about 90 percent extinguished,” Stallions said Friday afternoon. “No structures were in any danger; at no time was the camp in any danger.”
The blaze was in a very remote location in the woods, Stallions said, and was only accessible through trails running through Wesley Woods and the closed section of Foothills Parkway.
Two trucks from the Townsend Volunteer Fire Department, two ATVs and 11 firefighters joined 11 staff from the Park Service and eight personnel from the Division of Forestry in battling the fire.
“It was a large fire,” Stallions said, adding that it likely started earlier in the week following a lightning strike. “The last few days have been pretty dry. Being in the location it was it wouldn’t be visible to people until it got to where it did, but it appeared it had been burning for a few days.”
No machinery allowed
The Division of Forestry brought in bulldozers to help dig trenches to contain the fire, but most of the work had to be completed by hand, Stallions said, as the Park doesn’t allow machinery to be used unless a structure is threatened.
“We actually had to go in and dig hand lines,” Stallions said. “It was steep terrain (and) obviously very hot outside. It was a difficult fire to work.”
Two Townsend firefighters suffered mild heat exhaustion, but no other injuries were reported. Park Service and the Division of Forestry visited the site Friday morning to ensure the fire didn’t continue to spread. Nathan Waters, Division of Forestry assistant district forester, said a group would return Saturday as well.
“They’ve been watching it and said it should burn itself out,” Waters said.