COCKE COUNTY - Update on April 8, 2016: Fire crews made good progress in their battle to extinguish the Halls Top fire in the Cherokee Forest in Cocke County.
More than a hundred firefighters worked Friday to hold the lines containing the more than 2,400 acre fire and to quickly extinguish any spot fires. It is now 80 percent contained.
The wind has hampered efforts to keep the fire under control, causing a slight increase in the size of the blaze on Friday.
Despite the destruction, it could have a positive impact on the forest, creating habitat for wildlife and birds that depend on new growth for food and cover.
Management officials will develop a plan to rehab the areas impacted by the equipment used to fight the fire, and watch for invasive species that sometimes move in after a fire.
Update on April 7, 2016:
The U.S. Forest Service said Thursday evening that around 135 fire fighters are working to contain a fire in Cocke County that has spread to 2,400 acres and is 60 percent contained.
Officials say crews completed containment lines and burnout of remaining areas. Five crews are on the scene now. They will continue to monitor the fire and put out hot spots. Access to Hall top Road and Low Gap Road is still restricted to fire officials.
Update on April 7, 2016:
The U.S. Forest Service said Thursday that around 120 fire fighters are working to contain a fire in Cocke County that has spread to 1,500 acres and is 40 percent contained.
Despite storms moving through East Tennessee Wednesday night, crews battling the Halls Top blaze in the Cherokee National Forest got little help from the weather. Just 1/10th of an inch of rain fell in the area, while high winds were a concern for firefighters, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The high winds ignited a small spot in the northeast corner. Once it was safe, firefighters moved in and built hand lines to reduce the spread.
Officials said other containment lines held the fire in place and they are confident homes in the Pleasant Grove area are out of danger.
Crews on Thursday will work to improve containment lines on all sides of the fire. They'll also be working to evaluate hazard trees that are near the line and take on hot spots that could carry embers across the line.
The fire began on Monday and is still under investigation.
Update on April 6, 2016:
At least one hundred firefighters continued to battle the Halls Top blaze in the Cherokee National Forest. On Wednesday, they were able to get it about 40 percent contained. In a release, the U.S. Forest Service said fire officials felt confident that lines set Wednesday would hold as the next storm front crossed through the area.
Crews from the U.S. Forest Service, Tennessee Division of Forestry and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency are all working on the fire. In addition, an air tanker from Colorado dropped retardant along containment lines on Tuesday.
The fire has burning since Monday, and fire investigators said Wednesday that the believe it was started by people, though they didn't elaborate on whether it was intentional or an accident.
"All we're reporting is that it happened on private land, it was human caused but I wouldn't call it arson," said Deborah Walker from the USDA.
The Tennessee Division of Forestry said the Halls Top wildfire was likely caused by a debris fire.
No buildings have been damaged and there have been no injuries related to the fire, though it is creating heavy smoke which is affecting visibility along I-40 in Cocke County.
The U.S. Forestry Service warned drivers Wednesday night to be prepared for low visibility and slow moving fire traffic.
Update on April 5, 2016: The United States Department of Agriculture said Tuesday crews contained about 10 percent of a fire that burned an estimated 800 acres of land.
About 100 people from a number of different agencies responded to the west side of Stone Mountain southeast of Newport, Tenn.
The USDA said in a release there were four hand crews, two bulldozers, three engines and two helicopters.
The release said there were no immediate threats, but there are concerns for the Hall Top Communication Tower and residences in the Pleasant Grove area.
Original Story on April 4, 2016: Crews worked a wildfire in Cocke County on Monday that burned at least 70 acres of land.
It has been threatening several homes, though the assistant deputy chief wasn’t sure if those homes were still in danger as of Monday night.
“Our whole department is out there, including the chief,” said Keith Large, the assistant deputy chief. “I wouldn’t doubt it’s burned 70 to 100 acres.”
Large said five other departments responded, including the state forestry department. He said they had requested the U.S. Forestry department do a helicopter drop of water, but hadn’t seen it fly by as of 7:30 p.m.
The fire appeared to have started near Maple Lane, off the 440 exit of Interstate 40. He said that as of Monday night, it had spread to the Cherokee National Forest.