Forestry spends Thanksgiving patrolling Hawkins fire

7:15 PM, Nov 22, 2012   |    comments
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Thanksgiving Day marked the first time people in Mooresburg had a smoke-free sky in a week.  The non-stop work of fire crews and forestry workers during the last week finally has the 2,200 acre blaze on Short Mountain completely contained.

"This has been one of the biggest fires we've had in the county," said Rick Dykes of the Tennessee Forestry Division.  "It's 100 percent contained. We have lines and fire breaks all the way around it."

Dykes is one of a dozen forestry workers who spent Thanksgiving patrolling the breaks that crews cut through the woods to contain the fire.

"You've got a lot of big tall dead trees or 'snags' like the one right here below us that is still smoking. It'll fall across and start a fire on the wrong side of the fire break," said Dykes.  "We also have a lot of leaves still falling that will cover the breaks we've cut, so we're just making sure the barrier stays clear of debris that can spread the fire again."

Crews remained committed to keeping a close watch on the woods Thursday, despite a burning desire to be somewhere else.

"It's really not fun because we're away from our families. A lot of the younger guys have children and they want to spend Thanksgiving together," said Dykes.

Although the workers had to spend most of Thanksgiving Day watching the woods for any debris that might feed the fire, a group of volunteers ensured the workers were fed a traditional meal.

"We knew they had to have a meal and we just wanted to provide it for them," said Mark DeWitte with the Rogersville charity People Loving People.

A few of the forestry workers managed to enjoy the brief break with their families.

"That's what it's about, being able to get people who are alone or without their families together and just show people love," said DeWitte.

While the job on Short Mountain will not be done until a soaking rain saturates the ashes, for at least one meal the community and fire crews managed to take time to give thanks for each other.

"It means a whole bunch. They're taken away from their families, just like we are, to take care of us. We're very appreciative of it," said Dykes.

Dykes said crews have had to deal with four separate arson cases while fighting the fire on Short Mountain. 

"Somebody sees all of this fire and excitement and thinks it would be fun to start another one.  They really don't know how dangerous this work is and how they might destroy houses and kill people.  It's frustrating," said Dykes.

If you have any information about who may have started the fires in Hawkins County, you are urged to call the confidential arson hotline at 1-800-762-3017.

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