Forest fire contained in Unicoi Co., 3 other reports of forest fires

Photo of Johnson City taken from News Channel 11's General Shale Skycam
Photo of Johnson City taken from News Channel 11's General Shale Skycam

UNICOI COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Among the numerous fires the U.S. Forest Service firefighters are working — including a 47-acre blaze in Unicoi County near the Cherokee National Forest that was contained Tuesday — heavy smoke filled the surrounding region.

Valerya Hyrne with the Forest Service said the fire was on private property near the federal forest land on Tumbling Creek Road, just off Spivey Creek Road.

The U.S. Forest Service said the fire — which was reported at 7 p.m. on Monday — was contained to 47 acres and no structures were damaged.

According to the news release issued around 5 p.m., approximately 125 firefighters and support personnel were assigned to wildfires in the Cherokee National Forest.

Since Oct. 29, the following fire restrictions have been in place for the entire Cherokee National Forest: Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or charcoal fire outside of developed recreation areas is prohibited. The use of portable lanterns, stoves or heating equipment that utilize gas or pressurized liquid fuel is allowed.

Forestry officials added that most of the smoke seen in the Tri-Cities is coming from fires in nearby western North Carolina.

Also in the release, officials noted that the smoke from surrounding wildfires in East Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia are still being reported and said the smoke has been heavy at times.

Below is video from News Channel 11 photographer Stephen Greene who was in Unicoi County this afternoon:

Smoke from this fire could be seen from Interstate 26, near the border with North Carolina. Hyrne said smoke from a fire in North Carolina was also drifting into parts of Greene County.

Hyrne added that as of Monday members of the Southern Region Incident Management Team were managing at least 10 forest fires in western North Carolina.

News Channel 11 has also received reports of heavy smoke across the region, including Johnson City, Elizabethton, Greene County and Kingsport.

Here at our station in south Johnson City, smoke from outside is obstructing the view of Buffalo Mountain and could be smelled from inside the building.

According to Hyrne, there have been three other reports of forest fires in our region

There has been a report of smoke on Pond Mountain, which is north of Hampton. Hyrne said crews just found smoke, not a fire.

Hyrne said another forest fire was reported on Walnut Mountain near Roan Mountain. She said crews are still in that area checking out that report.

A third forest fire was reported off of Denton Valley Road off of U.S. Highway 421 close to Jacob’s Creek Recreation Area on South Holston Lake.

Virginia Department of Forestry officials issued a news release Tuesday, asking community members in Southwest Virginia to refrain from calling 911 if they are only seeing smoke.

According to the release, Southwest Virginia citizens are calling 911 to report wildfires that aren’t actually fires, and are asking everyone to only 911 when they see an active fire.

We appreciate the citizens making the calls, but the limited fire suppression resources are being directed to areas where there aren’t any wildfires, and then they aren’t available to respond to a report of an actual wildfire,” said Ed Stoots, VDOF Western Regional Forester. “Please be sure to call 911 when you see a fire but not if you are seeing or smelling only smoke at this time. Most of Southwest Virginia is covered with smoke from the many wildfires burning out of state.”

Forestry officials also added that Dickenson, Wise, Lee and Washington counties all have active burn bans until further notice.

Stoots added that “even if you don’t have a burn ban in place in your county, please refrain from any kind of outdoor burning until the weather conditions improve significantly.”

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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