Arson forest fires fueled by dangerous conditions

7:03 PM, Nov 25, 2012   |    comments
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Dangerous conditions fueled new forest fires this weekend.

Forestry crews and volunteer fire departments continue to fight the often treacherous terrain to contain them.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture's Forestry Division reports five new fires Saturday in Monroe, Union, Scott, Anderson, and Campbell counties.

Those fires come in addition to four other fires started Sunday in Campbell and Scott counties.

No homes have been damaged so far.

East Tennessee is under the highest fire danger --a five out of five -- thanks to low humidity and high wind gusts.

With little rain in sight, already fatigued forestry crews are concerned.

For two weeks, it's been a similar scene across many parts of East Tennessee.

"It started up in Hawkins County with the big 2,000 acre fire and it's been going ever since," said Asst. Forester Nathan Waters. "The firefighters are really exhausted."

Most of the fires are on steep mountains, forcing crews to use bulldozers and hand tools.

The hardest part for Waters is knowing that people are setting the fires intentionally.

"It's very easy for somebody to get hurt with these arson fires. That compounds the crime right there," Waters said. "We were on a fire yesterday... and I got burned a little bit. There was a fireman that fell and twisted his leg. He was concerned he broke it."

Waters says woods arson is not new. He sees cases every few years. With the current fire conditions, however, it makes it more dangerous than in the past.

The forestry division is not issuing any outdoor burning permits for Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Roane, Scott, Sevier, or Union counties.


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