Note: This story was updated at 3:20 p.m. Nov. 12.
NEW RIVER—More than 4,000 acres have burned this month in five fires in mountainous north Anderson County, state officials said.
In Anderson County, 4,235 acres had been burned by the five fires as of Saturday afternoon, according to an update posted by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry. That was the most acres burned by fires that were still active in Tennessee on Saturday.
Arson is listed as the cause of four of the Anderson County fires, according to the update. Debris is the cause of another.
Smoke from at least two fires hung high above the mountains north of Oak Ridge and Oliver Springs on Thursday evening. It reduced visibility to a few hundred feet on the northernmost section of Highway 116 in rural Anderson County on Friday morning. Smoke was thick near a bridge at a 90-degree bend in the highway at the Campbell County line in northern Anderson County, irritating throats and making it harder to breathe. Firefighters said there was a nearby fire that they called Bootjack, up Stoney Fork Road, which goes north into Campbell County.
There appeared to be another fire of about 100 acres in the same area, but just inside Anderson County off Charlie Branch Lane, according to state maps and fire updates posted Thursday and Saturday.
Another fire appeared to be burning south of the western end of Highway 116, a few miles northeast of Petros, on Thursday evening and Friday morning. That fire of about 150 acres was reported to be along Gilmore Trail.
The largest fire has been the Three Heads Fire in Double Camp behind the former Rosedale Elementary School, which is between Petros and the Anderson County-Campbell County line. That fire is northeast of the Tennessee Valley Authority wind turbines on Buffalo Mountain, which are visible from Oak Ridge on a clear day. That fire has burned 2,200 acres, and it is 100 percent contained, according to state records.
The fires have been in rough, rugged terrain and mostly not visible from roadways. One exception has been the Beech Grove Fire in Devonia, about five miles northeast of the former Brushy Mountain Prison. That fire, which appeared to burn mostly brush and a total of about 1,780 acres, including along Highway 116, seems to be out now.
There was a report of a smaller fire of about five acres on the front side of Windrock Mountain on Thursday, but it’s reported to be controlled.
State firefighting crews have been battling the blazes since at least November 2. They have also been trying to contain other fires across the state, as many as 96 on Sunday and 53 on Thursday.
There have been no reports of injuries or threats to personal property in Anderson County.
The state said the 53 fires active on Thursday have burned close to 10,000 acres. Hamilton County had three active fires that have burned 1,184 acres.
Here are the active fires listed in Anderson County on Saturday:
- Initial attack: November 3—Highway 116 Number 1/Rosedale (Cemetery)—2,200 acres, debris, 100 percent contained;
- Initial attack: November 3—Highway 116 Number 2 (Devonia)—1,780 acres, arson, 100 percent contained;
- Initial attack: November 8—State Route 116/Gilmore Trail—150 acres, arson, 100 percent contained;
- Initial attack: November 8—Charlie Branch Lane—100 acres, arson, 100 percent contained; and
- Initial attack: November 10—Windrock Road—5 acres, arson, 100 percent contained.
The conditions have been challenging for state crews.
“We’ve got extremely dry conditions; really low humidity; rough, rugged terrain; and an arsonist,” Bruce Miller, Tennessee Division of Forestry forestry technician in Anderson County, said Tuesday. “Those conditions make it really tough to put fires out.”
The brush fires in Tennessee have blanketed communities like Oak Ridge and the Knoxville area with a thick smoky haze during the past few days. However, conditions seemed to have improved in Oak Ridge on Tuesday, compared to Monday.
On Tuesday, Miller said firefighters were using bulldozers in Anderson County—three on average—along with an average of six 150-175 gallon pump units that fit into the beds of pickup trucks and spray water or foam. There had been an average of nine to 11 firefighters battling the brush fires here, Miller said Tuesday. The firefighters come and go because they’re also helping to fight other fires.
See a map of Highway 116 in northern Anderson County below. Petros is to the left on that map, and Oak Ridge and Oliver Springs are near the bottom of the map.
See a fire location map as of Saturday here.
See the Saturday fire update here.
See our Tuesday story here.
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