Some portions of Roane County have seen a 200% increase in the number of brush and wildfires this year than in 2013, and it's putting a strain on firefighters and their equipment. Evan Johnson
(WBIR - Roane County) Firefighters in Roane County are working to keep up with more fires than usual since the start of the year. Officials credit Mother Nature for the increased problem.
"I think we had three structure fires the first week in January, which is just unusually busy," said South Roane County Volunteer Fire Chief Sam Wolfe.
Wolfe said his department's call volume has increased nearly 200 percent from last year. In 2013, the South Roane VFD responded to 193 calls. So far this year, the same department has tallied 75 fire calls. At his crew's current rate of response, Wolfe anticipates they could reach 300 calls by the end of the year.
A nervous Chief Wolfe said the burn season is only just beginning. After May 15th, permits are not required for piles sized eight feet wide by eight feet long, or less.
Until then, his crews and equipment work through the strain.
Firefighters say these fires are easy to prevent.
"Typically what will happen is they will light a fire, brush or debris pile, and they'll go inside to get a sandwich and they'll come back out and the woods are on fire," Wolfe said.
And fighting fires in wooded areas puts a strain on the men and women, as well as the equipment.
"A grass fire or brush fire or woods fire, we don't have the access so we have to hike in with equipment. We have to use rakes and shovels and hoses," the Chief explained. One his firetrucks is waiting for a tow, after a tree fell onto it during a fire.
Chief Charlie Redwine oversees the West Roane County fire department. He said his department has responded to 13 brush and debris fires this year. In 2013, the fire department responded to ten.
Chief Wolfe encourages anyone who burns to stay with the burn pile at all times in order to keep a close eye on the fire. Those needing a burn permit can go to www.burnsafetn.org.
Anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter can call Chief Wolfe at (865) 250 - 9515.