A wildfire has been sweeping across the mountain since the weekend closing roads, popular camping sites and summer recreation areas.
According to Polk County Sheriff’s Office authorities, about 1,500 acres of forest were involved.
The Chilhowee Recreation area was shut down to campers and swimmers as a precautionary measure, according to Andy Gaston, acting Ocoee District ranger.
Forestry firefighters took away underbrush by preventative burning. This eliminated the fuel for the fires which would have kept spreading if they hadn’t burned a containment line around the huge fire.
Authorities believed the fires were sparked when last week’s windstorm downed power lines.
Winds measured at 60-70 mph downed trees across Southeast Tennessee. The gust front toppled utility lines and damaged homes. Thousands of area residents were without power and some until damages could be repaired, according to utility officials.
Sheriff’s Office officials said smaller so-called spot fires along the Ocoee River Gorge were sparked from ash settling toward the river.
According to Forest officials, 80 personnel from Tennessee Division of Forestry, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee State Parks Department were among those helping to control and contain the blaze. Helicopters were used to dump water on the fire which was fueled by the underbrush.
Firefighters had been battling the blaze since last weekend and were concerned the fight could take days longer; however, Mother Nature stepped in Monday with heavy rains that aided in extinguishing the damaging fire. Agencies and firefighters will continue to monitor the area for any signs that the blaze could rekindle.
Several days of 100-plus degree conditions depleted topical moisture. Rain chances today and the remainder of the week are over 50 percent as cooler temperatures also settle into the Tennessee Valley.
Resolute Fire Update:
A fire in the wood yard at Resolute Forest Products (formerly Bowater) was fought by Bradley and McMinn County personnel during the weekend. Officials believed the fire was caused by the heat and natural combustion.
Bradley County Fire Chief Dewey Woody said today firefighters worked about 30 hours to get the fire out at the paper manufacturing facility.