High winds, low humidity enhance fire threat

Published 3:58 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2022

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
A red flag warning is in effect for Northern and Central East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia until 8 p.m. Wednesday evening as the high winds and low humidity enhance the danger of fire.
The National Weather Service in Morristown said that sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour along with gusts up to 55 miles per hour in most areas and as high as 80 to 90 miles per hour in the foothills and mountains could rapidly spread any fires that develop.
Outdoor burning is not recommended.
The winds could also down trees and spread loose materials which could result in power outages.
For county firefighters, the warning is alarming because they realize that any ember that escapes a fire burning outdoors could quickly get out of hand.
“It puts us on a higher alert because the conditions are right for wildfires to spread more quickly,” said Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department Chief Benny Lyons. “There is a burn ban until May 15 so there is not supposed to be any outdoor burning except in a contained area. But on a red flag, people are not supposed to have any fire.”
Anyone caught burning outdoors that results in a damaging wildfire would face some severe consequences including being liable for paying for manpower and equipment should the Forestry service have to get involved.
“They (person who starts fire) are responsible for the damages that are there,” said Lyons. “Where we are volunteers, we can’t bill anybody but as far as the state forestry, they can bill back for the manpower and the equipment they use.”
Another county department that will be keeping an eye on the windy conditions is the Carter County Highway Department.
Road Superintendent Roger Colbaugh said that if and when the winds come, his crews will be out clearing fallen trees and brush out of the roadway.
“We have some trucks here that have snow plows on them so when brush and limbs fall, we can push them out of the road temporarily and then come back later and get them,” Colbaugh said. “We might have to have some people on call and we always do have people on call when they go home that can be called in by 911.  If it gets bad, we may have to call everyone in to get the roads cleared.
“I have seen trees blown down and block roads for miles. And another thing is that trees bring the electric and telephone lines down and we have to work with the power board to get the power off and then go in and clear the roads.”

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