Tellico Plains wildfire threatens homes, Trail of Tears

Nov. 16, 2016: A wildfire in Monroe County is threatening homes, and also a piece of Tennessee and U.S. history.

A wildfire in Monroe County is threatening homes, a business and a piece of history.

Flames are burning dangerously close to a portion of the Trail of Tears - land traveled by Cherokee Indians on a forced march to Oklahoma in the 1800s. 

The historic federal land is forcing crews to change their tactics as they fight the fire. 

“Because it’s the Trail of Tears … they’re not able to fight it in a traditional way,” said Claude Smith, who has lived nearby in Tellico Beach for 60 years. 

Smith's home is one of four that is threatened by the nearby flames. He and his son first noticed the heat from the fire around 6 a.m. Wednesday. 

"It looked like molten lava," Smith said. 

The fire was about 30 acres in size Wednesday afternoon, but officials said it had burnt about 100 acres and was about 15 percent contained late Wednesday evening. The fire has spread into Cherokee National Forest.

Mary Miller with the Cherokee National Forest said the fire underlines a stern warning officials are repeating across much of East Tennessee: no burning. 

"It's really unusually dry fall, so we haven't had rain in maybe a month," she said. "In many places on Cherokee National Forest, they's why we have a complete fire ban." 

Miller said they don't know exactly how the fire started at this point.

"We haven't had any lightening in the area, so it's likely human caused," she said. 

(© 2016 WBIR)


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