If you stepped outside in Marion County on Sunday morning you couldn’t help but notice the smokey haze that engulfed the Sequatchie Valley. It’s a haze that’s with us again on Monday as we start the work week and very likely could be with us for several days due to wild fires around the area — nearly two dozen of those fires ignited just on Friday night into Saturday in the Tennessee Valley including one on Jasper Mountain in Coppinger Cove here in Marion County.
One of the largest of the fires is the one on Signal Mountain. It was reported around 3:30pm EDT Saturday afternoon on Littlebend Road. The Tennessee Forestry Division says 65 acres are burning on top of Flipper Bend.
The Tennessee Forestry and Tennessee State Parks continue to cut fire breaks to contain the fire within the breaks. Sunday afternoon, a helicopter from Air National Guard made several water drops over the large woods fire with a plane from US Forestry Service dropping a fire retardant over the area that is not under control after that. Thankfully, there is no structure endangerment in that area. The cause of this fire is unknown.
Another fire that has caused a lot of smoke to drift into the Marion County on Lookout Mountain, where the fire reignited due to the weather and has now grown to 175 acres.
Officials with the Georgia Forestry Commission say that roughly 200 acres will be burned in this fire. They say the extremely dry weather conditions, increased wind speeds, and steep terrain have made battling this fire very difficult. Crews have been on hand all weekend trying to contain it, but Forestry officials there say that residents should expect heavy smoke for the next few days.
Georgia crews are also continuing to battle a blaze started by lightning back on October 16th in the Cohutta Wilderness Area in Murray County. That fire has burned around 2,939 acres and as of Friday was about 10% contained.
Mowbray Mountain was one of the latest fires to break out in the area. That fire started around noon on Saturday on Hotwater Road. By 6:00pm Saturday the Tennessee Forestry Division reported 10 acres were burning but were contained within the fire breaks.
Other smaller fires around the area have included fires in Coppinger Cove on Jasper Mountain that have burned several acres and put property owners at risk in that area. A fire in Prentice Cooper on Suck Creek Mountain consumed around 5 acres there. Crews working the fires in Coppinger Cove say the cause of that fire is arson while the cause of the Prentice Cooper fire is unknown.
Shannon Gann with the Tennessee Forestry Division says in addition to the major fire on Signal Mountain and those in Marion County, the department has been battling or has extinguished several fires in Grundy County near Bess and Coalmont, in Sequatchie County on Waldon Farms and on the mountain near Mount Airy golf course north of Dunlap, on the Sequatchie/Bledsoe County line, and in Cumberland County.
Gann says official numbers are alarming for this year due to the ongoing drought conditions. The Tennessee Division of Forestry has responded to 1,000 or more wildfires this year, with close to 50% of those under suspicion of arson.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Department says any type of burning is strictly prohibited at this time, citing that even campfires or bonfires are also prohibited under these conditions improve.
Marion officials say that if you are caught burning anything you can be charged and taken to jail.
A burn ban is currently in place for Claiborne, Jefferson, Loudon and Sevier Counties in Tennessee, while all other counties currently require a safe debris burning permit at this time. A violation of an imposed burn ban is considered reckless burning and is punishable as a misdemeanor carrying a $2,500 fine and/or up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.
Marion Officials say if you have information leading to the arrest of the subject or subjects starting who start or have stared any wildfires, to contact authorities.