More than 300-acre fire mostly contained with help of responders from five states

Published 9:32 am Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Following a 150-acre burnout Sunday, the United States Forest Service (USFS) reports the fire which began near Sciota Road on Monday, April 29, is now under control.
“The burnout was able to tie in with the uncontained fire line to the North, so now we have containment lines pretty much around the whole fire,” said Deborah Walker, USFS public information officer. “The burnout went really well.”
Though residents in both Carter and Unicoi Counties will still see smoke today, and possibly continuing into the week, she said crews will be on site monitoring the containment lines.
Eight-foot lines surround the now 314-acre fire, which Walker said is at least 80 percent contained.
“Everything is inside those containment lines, which is what we were after — to remove the threat from the uncontained North end and private property to the West,” said Walker.
The fire originated on private land, she said, and moved onto federal land. Before the scheduled burnout Sunday, it had incinerated 168 acres of predominantly federal land.
Walker said a combination of responders from USFS and the Departments of Forestry in Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina as well as local volunteer firefighters fought it from land and air.
“It’s not often that we have a fire of this size in this region,” said Walker. “The last one of similar size was about 15 years ago in a really dry Fall.”
This year has been different, she said, because it has been a really dry Spring with less than average rainfall in the month of March.
“What typically happens is winds pick up, the humidity drops, and any little thing can get a fire started, and then those winds drive it,” said Walker. “It’s unusual for this area because as everything gets greener, the fire hazard usually goes down, but with the low rainfall, the likelihood of fire has increased.”
The total cost of the fire now exceeds $300,000, which Walker said affords the use of helicopters, crew salaries, equipment like bulldozers and the housing and feeding of firefighters.
No structures, people or livestock were damaged by the blaze. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
“We still anticipate burning for the next couple days, but smoke should subside after today other than some drift smoke,” said Walker.

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