Firefighters bracing for rain, high winds as officials hope to scale back resources

Firefighters are hoping for rain to help dampen the ground to make it harder for fires to spread.

Firefighters in East Tennessee are hoping to scale back resources over the next few days, but weather changes ahead -- including a region-wide wind advisory -- could lead to new problems.

"We have fire warnings again, dropping in humidity and wind advisories. That's not going to help us at all anywhere. Not just here, but all over," Blount County Fire Chief Doug McClanahan said.

The wildfire at East Millers Cove in Walland, once threatening more than 250 homes, is now 90 percent contained after burning about 1,500 acres.

McClanahan said the department has already scaled back resources from the fire's height. On Sunday night, a crew of four firefighters manned the station nearest the mountain to keep watch over nearby hotspots.

"If you looked on the mountain right now you can't even tell it's burnt," McClanahan said.

He is hoping to start diverting more resources this week from the Walland fire.  Most of last week's smoke plumes are no longer visible, but with patches still burning and a wind advisory in effect from Monday afternoon to Tuesday morning across East Tennessee, crews are staying on alert.

RELATED: Crews make progress in containing wildfires

On Sunday, 130 firefighters from the west coast flew in to help battle wildfires across the southeast.

Officials coordinating those resources say if weather permits and this week's rain is sufficient, that could be the final group to arrive. Officials at the Southern Area Coordinating Center are hoping this week's rain chances will allow them to send crews home by the middle of the week.

McClanahan hopes the precipitation will sustain long enough to help crews douse the Walland fire completely by the weekend.

"It's going to take several days of good, slow rain to get us back to semi-normal," he said. "If we get an inch or two of rain Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then that's going to help."

(© 2016 WBIR)


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