Tennessee brush fire concerns grow, arson to blame for 41 of 53 in the past two weeks

BRISTOL, TN (WJHL) – Dozens of brush fires have popped up across East Tennessee the past two weeks and Friday night was no different.

Crews worked tirelessly to put out a nearly three acre blaze alongside highway 11W near The Pinnacle.

The fire started just feet from the road causing an hours long traffic back up, as fire crews across the state deal with dry conditions.

News Channel 11 learned that arson has played a big role in our state’s fire trend.

Ross Moore owns the land and lives right up the hill.

“I didn’t know, it was scary. It was bad there for a while, there was a lot of smoke and a lot of fire down in there,” Moore said.

fire-2Dry conditions across our region are not helping. In the Tri-Cities we are over eight inches below our yearly average of rainfall.

James Heaton of the TN Division of Forestry said fire behavior is very active right now.

“Years such as this when we are running such a deficit of rainfall our fires are a lot more intense, a lot more extreme,” Heaton said.

Year like these are seeing record numbers, dozens of fires have popped up all across East Tennessee and in our region at least eight.

According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture from Oct. 29 to  Nov. 10 there have been 53 fires reported statewide, 41 one of those arson, burning nearly 10,000 acres of land in less than two weeks.

Thursday night, police made an arrest in Chattanooga.

“Not going to tolerate this in Tennessee as far as wild land arson, we have leads in other fires across East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee,” the Sequatchie Sheriff’fire-3s Office said.

The Tennessee Division of Forestry doesn’t want to jump to any conclusions.

“There’s a lot of other things that can cause fires catalytic converters on vehicles, cigarettes out the window, and arson, all of those are possibilities whenever you look at fires right beside roadways,” Heaton said.

Friday night’s fire is still under investigation as crews across the state wait for rainfall.

As a result of the dry weather, the state is restricting burn permits for brush within 500 feet of the woods, you can still have a campfire.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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