Railroad Grade Fire nearly doubles; reward offered for arson information
Published 9:18 am Thursday, April 21, 2016
The fire off Old Railroad Grade Road which began Monday afternoon was considered 60 percent contained Tuesday night, according to Forestry Technician James Heaton with the Tennessee Division of Forestry.
“Current charred land is approximately 500 acres with that total to go much higher when lines are completed and burnout operations cease,” Heaton said.
Heaton said Wednesday afternoon that he anticipates 1,400 acres for the final size of the fire.
The fire, along with a series of other fires in the area in recent months, has been attributed to arson.
“Fire has been determined to be a result of arson and is under investigation by Forestry Officials,” Heaton said.
In fact, Greg Whitehead with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture said the department is offering up to a $1,500 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of the arsonist. Those with information may submit anonymous tips on this or other arson fires in the state by calling the arson hotline 1-800-762-3017.
The United States Forest Service has closed approximately seven miles of the Appalachian Trail, and hikers are being rerouted. Heaton said the reroute begins at Bitter End Road and trails along Forest Road 293, off Buck Mountain Road and north to the first field. He said plenty of water sources are available along the forest road as well as one at the field junction.
Approximately 75 firefighters from the United States Forest Service, Tennessee Division of Forestry, numerous volunteer fire departments and the Carter County Sheriffs Office are working to contain the blaze.
Heaton said crews from as far as Florida and New Mexico are assisting.
On Wednesday, Heaton said he hoped the weather would be somewhat favorable as they continue to fight for containment.
“Today we will be reinforcing lines, backfiring to those lines, and trying to maintain the gains we have made on the fire in the last couple days,” Heaton said Wednesday.
The weather forecast Wednesday called for higher humidity, which Heaton said would be helpful, but the forecasted winds could be counterproductive.