UPDATE: Smokies wildfire 50 percent contained

UPDATE, MONDAY 7 P.M.: The fire burning on the Happy Valley Ridge along the northwest boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now 50 percent contained, park officials said Monday. 

The fire has been burning since Wednesday, Sept. 14, and is currently about 70 acres in size. 

The fire is burning within a 250-acre containment zone. Firefighters from the National Park Service and 11 Hotshot crew members from the Cherokee National Forest are monitoring the site. 

Over the past 24 hours, the area received one half-inch of rain, which slowed the spread of fire on the ground, park officials said. Stumps and logs in the fire area are still actively burning. 

All park areas, including trials, remain open. 

PREVIOUS STORY: Firefighters continue to battle a wildfire that has grown from 25 acres to 70 acres along the northwest boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Happy Valley Ridge. 

The fire north of the Abrams Creek Campground was reported about 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday.

Jamie Sanders with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park said extremely dry conditions and plenty of dead forest brush have fueled the fire to allow it to spread. Flames have grown as high as 1 to 3 feet, and the fire is actively growing in all directions as crews work to contain it.

Nine firefighters and 11 hotshot crew members from the Cherokee National forest have set up a containment perimeter that will allow the fire to burn up to 250 acres eventually. A spokesperson with the park said the fire should not grow past that, though.

The fire is currently not threatening any structures, roads or trails, and all park areas remain open at this time, the spokesperson said. 

Park visitors can expect to see smoke from the Foothills Parkway West and the Abrams Creek area of the park. 

The cause of the fire is unknown, but it is possible it was started by lightning, the spokesperson said.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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