Heavy smoke from the uncontrolled blaze blanketed Houston Valley and other areas of southern Greene County this morning, often requiring motorists to use their headlights.
Pat Momich, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, said this morning from Hot Springs that the Forest Service was attempting to use bulldozers to cut a fire line along the top of the mountain at the Tennessee state line in an effort to stop the fire from entering Tennessee.
However, she said, gusting winds, steep terrain and extremely dry conditions were hampering efforts to control the fire.
Because of the danger from flames that were sometimes reaching as much as 40 feet into the air above the forest, Momich said, fire-fighting crews have been unable to fight the blaze on the ground since Tuesday night.
This morning, Momich said, three helicopters were dropping water dipped from the French Broad River onto the fire. She noted that some of the five tanker airplanes available to help with a series of forest fires across Western North Carolina and East Tennessee likely would be used again today to drop fire-retarding chemical ahead of the advancing forest fire.
Three of the tanker aircraft were used Wednesday to attack the Larman Fire, as the Forest Service refers to the blaze that began Monday evening near the French Broad River in Madison County, N.C., according to Cherokee National Forest spokesman Terry McDonald.
Several Other Fires Burning
The U.S. Forest Service and the Tennessee Division of Forestry, meanwhile, reported that firefighters remain on the scene of the Green Mountain Fire near Bluffton, in Cocke County, today.
Contained since Sunday, Nov. 11, the Green Mountain fire burned approximately 2,200 acres between the Foothills Parkway, I-40, and Groundhog Road in the Bluffton area. Smoke could be visible for several days from Interstate 40. Foothills Parkway from I-40 to Cosby remains closed to through traffic.
• The Clark's Creek Fire in Unicoi County's Flat Top Mountain area near the Mt. Carmel community and Sampson Mountain Wilderness continued to burn this morning, according to state fire officials.
A fire line has been constructed around the fire, which has burned approximately 224 acres in very steep and rugged terrain.
• The Peter's Cemetery Fire in Carter County near Roan Mountain State Park, south of Highway 19E, was contained on Wednesday, Nov. 14, according to fire officials. That blaze has burned 121 acres.
• The Fork Mountain Fire in Carter County near the Fork Mountain Freewill Baptist Church also was believed to be under control this morning.
This fire was reported Wednesday afternoon, according to McDonald. Roan Mountain Volunteer Fire Department responded, followed by U.S. Forest Service personnel. The fire burned two acres and was declared contained at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
• The Railroad Grade #4 Fire in Carter County near the intersection of Ingram's Branch road and the railroad line, north of 19E at the White Rock community, also was believed to be under control this morning.
The fire was reported at about 2:20 p.m. Wednesday and burned 10 acres before being contained. Crews are working to continue burnout and mop-up operations.
Fire danger is high throughout East Tennessee due to extremely dry weather. As a result, Cherokee National Forest has implemented special burning restrictions.
Anne Zimmermann, forest supervisor, said, "Forest users are prohibited from building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or charcoal fire outside of developed recreation areas. Fires at developed recreation areas must be confined to receptacles designed for fire." This restriction will be terminated as soon as the Forest receives significant moisture, and conditions warrant it.
John Henderson, fire prevention forester with the Tennessee Division of Forestry, said the 12 counties in District 1 are currently not issuing burn permits. Affected counties are Carter, Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington.