BY KEN LITTLE
Several Greene County volunteer fire departments had a busy day on Wednesday.
At least six brush and woods fires erupted throughout the county, including a fire that consumed about 45 acres of woodland off Old Mountain Road in Camp Creek.
Firefighters from the Camp Creek, Sunnyside, DeBusk, South Greene and Tusculum volunteer fire departments extinguished the blaze, along with personnel from the Tennessee Division of Forestry.
Another woods fire that started earlier this week continues to burn in the Cherokee National Forest in Cocke County.
That fire had burned through about 340 acres of woodland as of Friday afternoon, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Cheryl Summers said.
LACK OF RAIN
It's the peak of fall fire season, and extreme caution is urged when burning outside, officials said.
"Everyone wants to get out and burn leaves right now, and it's creating havoc. With what little rain we're getting, the wind dries it out pretty quick," said Wesley Holt, chief of the Greene County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments.
The Camp Creek fire is a case in point.
"It took about two hours to bring it under control. Luckily, the winds were to our advantage," Holt said.
"The winds were going down the mountain instead of up the mountain, (or) we would have had a major forest fire."
The fire was sparked by someone who had been burning on his property several days before the woods fire started, Holt said.
"What we would encourage people to do, especially with leaves on the ground, is wait until it rains before they burn and make sure they have a water hose nearby," Holt said.
MIDST OF FIRE SEASON
During official fire season, Oct. 15 through May 15, state law requires citizens to obtain a burning permit before conducting any open, outdoor burning.
Burn permits are issued free of charge.
For more information, call (423) 638-7841 or go to http://www.tn.gov/agriculture/forestry/fire.shtml to get permits for controlled burns less than eight square-feet in size.
The East Tennessee District of the Tennessee Division of Forestry covers 24 counties, where 11 fires burned at least 172 acres between Oct. 31 and Wednesday, not counting the Cocke County fire in the Cherokee National Forest.
Five of the fires were caused by debris, four by suspected arson, one by lightning, and one by a burning structure.
The largest and most visible fire was on Walden's Ridge in Anderson County. The fire, which is suspected to have been arson, burned more than 71 acres and threatened nine homes before it was put out.
Tusculum Fire Chief Stephen Harris was among those who fought the fire Wednesday in Camp Creek.
"It's a bad time of the year for grass and woods fires because of people burning leaves and things of that nature," Harris said.
A fire line was being prepared Friday to contain the Cocke County fire in the Cherokee National Forest, Summers said.
"There are some areas burning inside the fire line," she said. "(On Friday and Saturday) they are looking to secure the fire line."
This time of year is the "normal fire season" for the U.S. Forest Service, Summers said. "It's drier in the fall and spring," she noted.
Anticipated precipitation and cold weather next week should help dampen the ground locally, Holt said.
Possible snow showers are even forecast for next Wednesday.
"Frost should help, and slow [the fire threat] down," Holt said.