Wildfire threat forces closure of portions of Appalachian Trail in response to Black Bear Fire

Published 4:31 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023

CLEVELAND — The threat of wildfires remains high as sections of the Appalachian Trail shut down following the eruption of the Black Bear Fire near the North Carolina state line on Interstate 40. Originating as a roadside blaze, the fire has spread into Cocke County, Tennessee, exacerbated by persistently dry conditions fostering rapid growth and resistance to containment efforts.

Forest Service authorities have taken measures to close the Appalachian Trail from Davenport Gap to the boundary edge of Great Smoky National Park up to Max Patch, including the parking area. For further updates on the Black Bear Fire, additional information is available at https://www.facebook.com/nfsnc.

In the Cherokee National Forest, ongoing patrols aim to manage recent fires and fortify containment lines.

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As of the latest update at 2 p.m.:

  • Bullet Fire: Situated in the Cherokee National Forest in Monroe County, five miles southeast of Etowah, the 103-acre wildfire remains 20 percent contained with no significant changes reported. Crews are employing indirect strategies due to the blaze’s presence in rugged, inaccessible terrain. Efforts include the installation of sprinkler systems to bolster control. Investigators are looking into the fire’s cause, suspected to be arson.

The Cherokee National Forest grapples with persisting drought conditions, attributing most fire starts to arson and human activities. Fire authorities implore the public to adhere to state open burning guidelines and report any suspicious activities to law enforcement.

With the Cherokee National Forest spanning 10 counties across the Tennessee border, fire danger levels and restrictions vary. Currently, fire restrictions prohibit outdoor fires except in developed recreation areas. Updates on fire restrictions within the Cherokee National Forest can be found at the Supervisor and District Ranger’s Offices and the forest’s website, https://www.fs.usda.gov/cherokee, and Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CherokeeNF/.