Forest Fires Blanket Area In Smoke And Ash

Photo contributed by David Kelley, Downtown Gatlinburg, TN, November 28, 2016

Photo contributed by David Kelley, Downtown Gatlinburg, TN, November 28, 2016

Photo contributed by David Kelley, Downtown Gatlinburg, TN, November 28, 2016

Photo contributed by David Kelley, Downtown Gatlinburg, TN, November 28, 2016

Photo contributed by Gary Donaldson, Downtown Gatlinburg, TN, November 28, 2016

Photo contributed by Gary Donaldson, Downtown Gatlinburg, TN, November 28, 2016

Photo contributed by Autumn Huskey, Hwy 321, November 28, 2016

Photo contributed by Autumn Huskey, Hwy 321, November 28, 2016

Park Fire Update

·        The Chimney 2 fire started on Wed, Nov 23 on the north spire of the Chimney Tops. The fire was first reported at less than 2 acres and grew to 8 acres by Sat (11/26).

·        A suppression area was established but due to extreme winds sustained at 20 mph and weather conditions, spot fires spread outside the containment area Sunday night. There are spot fires burning in the Chimneys Picnic area and across Newfound Gap Road on Bullhead Ridge. The size of these spot fires are unknown due to visibility issues.

·        A small fire was reported at approximately 11:35 am on Mon (11/28) near the Twin Creeks Picnic Pavilion off of Cherokee Orchard Road. It is unknown if this is a spot fire from the Chimney 2 Fire or if it is an independent ignition.

Fire Personnel

·        Park fire crew numbers responding to the Chimney 2 Fire have continued to increase over the course of the weekend.  Currently park firefighters have been joined by firefighters from Utah and additional support resources have been ordered including an incident management team along with 4 hand crews (total of 80 people) and air support. The  additional crews are expected to begin to arrive Mon (11/28) and early Tue (11/29).

·        Park Service fire crews, Gatlinburg Fire Department, and Tennessee State Forestry Department have provided additional equipment and support to the fire at Twin Creeks.

·        National Park Service fire crews and local fire departments are working on suppression efforts to ensure public safety and to protect facilities throughout the area.

Weather Conditions

·        Fire conditions continue to change rapidly as the day continues. The park continues to experience very dry conditions with relative humidity less than 50%. As of 1:00 pm Mon (11/28) the park recorded average wind speeds of 20 mph with gusts up to 50 mph. The forecast is for wind speed to increase this afternoon. Fire growth is expected.

·        Because of extreme wind conditions on Monday, air crews are unable to fly to view the fires or drop water in suppression efforts.

·        Rain is forecasted for Monday evening which could aid in the suppression efforts but extreme wind gusts of up to 85 mph are being predicted for Monday night.

Safety

·        Several park roads, trails, campsites and shelters are closed for safety. For a complete list of updated closures, please visit the park website.

·        A maximum of 29 people were identified as potentially being in the closed backcountry area of the park. They were notified via the Backcountry Reservation’s warning system of the fire and subsequent closure. All of the backcountry shelters and campsites in the closure area are closed and all reservation holders for the upcoming week have been notified.

·        Due to erratic winds, the fire is very unpredictable. State and local fire departments are working in partnership to respond as needed to potential threats to private properties along the park boundaries including Gatlinburg and Pittman Center.

·        Air quality in the area has been affected and is unhealthy for the Sevier County section of the park and adjacent areas.