Smokey haze, bad air quality linked to local, regional wildfires

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s latest report revealed that wild fires have burned about 24,000 acres of land in East Tennessee. Forestry technicians and fire fighters told News Channel 11, those fires are affecting the air quality in our region.

Tennessee Forestry Technician James Heaton told News Channel, in some places, the region is experiencing a moderate to severe drought which is creating the perfect conditions for wildfires to spread.

Smoke from the fires is drifting into the atmosphere, prompting the National Weather Service to issue bad air quality alerts in the area.

Heaton said his division has received dozens of calls from dozens of Carter County residents who thought the fires were very close to their homes. However Heaton said, the drifting smoke makes the wildfires feel closer than they actually are.

“We’re getting a lot of smoke from fires occurring southwest of us in North Carolina and also into Kentucky and Virginia. So we’re getting a lot of that drift smoke into the area,” said Heaton.

There are several fires still burning in Unicoi County and Hawkins County.

“A lot of fire fighters are starting to get moved from counties that aren’t having fires down to counties that are having fires because many fire fighters have been on fires for weeks at a time,” said Heaton.

Heaton said the Forestry Division stopped issuing burn permits until further notice.

Heaton said his division is bracing for the fires to continue throughout the season.

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