Carter County wildfire triples in size nearly 1500 acres; more aircrafts ordered

CARTER COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – A forest fire in the Railroad Grade community of Carter County has tripled in size.

The wildfire is now estimated to be between 1,400 and 1,500 acres.  James Heaton, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Division of Forestry, says they did make progress overnight ,but winds picked up Wednesday – causing problems.

The forestry division has ordered more aircrafts to help with containment efforts in the growing forest fire.

News Channel 11 learned, because of the dry conditions, burn permits were not issued Wednesday in the 24-county East Tennessee District.

State officials say the decision is made on a day-by-day and is based on weather conditions. Wednesday, the weather conditions were dry and windy – posing an extra risk to outdoor burning.

Since the beginning of the month, burn permits were not issued on April 4, 5, 6 and 20. There were other days in between when burns were restricted, meaning a person had to call rather than apply online and put out the fire by noon.

Only the Governor or the state Commissioner of Agriculture can implement a burn ban.

See also: Tennessee Fire Laws (.pdf)

In addition, the fire is currently being investigated by state officials as arson.

Capt. Greg Whitehead, an investigator from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, said there is a $1,500 reward being offered for any information leading to an arrest. Whitehead said they have developed the point of origin of the forest fire, but said they will not be releasing that information at this time. He said there is no way this forest fire was accidental.

News Channel 11 spoke with the officials with the Tennessee State Department of Corrections Tuesday, and they confirmed there is a contingency plan in place should the fire pose an immediate threat to the Northeast Correctional Complex and Annex in Carter County.

Details of the plan were not released, but officials said they would make an announcement if they have to evacuate.

Around 300 inmates are currently housed at this annex facility in Carter County.

Those traveling along the Appalachian Trail may find this notice posted:


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