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Rocky Top Burning
By: Doug Bittinger - November 13, 2009

For the past week or so Marie and I have been smelling smoke.  For the past few days, there has been a good amount of smoke in the air, especially along the Edwina-Bridgeport road about a mile from here.  Neither are especially unusual for this area, many folks around here heat their home with a fireplace or wood stove -- except that it is August and reaching the low 90's during the day and upper 60's at night; not heating weather.  Folks also burn off leaves and yard debris, but the leaves have not started to fall, and it has been very dry for a couple of weeks so the Forestry Department has not been issuing burn permits.  So, we wondered if there was a fire somewhere.

The fire on Rocky TopIndeed there was, or rather, there IS!

The Newport Plain Talk newspaper reports a forest fire burning in Cocke County has now consumed an estimated 900 acres and could burn as many as 2,000 acres before it is completely controlled, according to United State Forest Service Officials.

Forestry Department officials state that extreme dry conditions, wind and rough terrain are hampering the efforts of crews battling the blaze.  It's such a steep rugged area, they've had to back off to do fire lines but have fire lines about 80 percent completed. Their major concern is lack of rain.  Although they may contain it, this fire will not be completely out until we get rain.

The fire was initiated a couple of weeks ago by a lightning strike that fire fighters had worked to extinguish.  On this past Thursday it was detected that the fire had flared up and spread, however, no homes have been threatened.

One helicopter, three bulldozers and 72 firefighters are working to control the fire.  Firefighters are from the U.S. Forest Service, the Tennessee Division of Forestry and the Del Rio Volunteer Fire Department.  The helicopter is used with a large bucket to dip water from the French Broad River and dump it on the fire, however, the river levels are so low due to lack of rain that this task is not going well.

Smoke from the fire has spread west the last couple of days.  In fact, our pastor who lives in Jefferson City says the smoke is so troublesome there that he and his neighbors can not go outside to work in their yards and Knoxville's E-911 center received more than a half-dozen calls Friday from citizens concerned about the origin of the smoke.

We are less bothered by the smoke here, most of the time, because although we are much closer, we are "beside" the fire, not down wind of it.  Sunday evening the breezes stopped and we noticed a large amount of smoke filling our yard, so we closed the house up tight.  Later in the evening the breezes returned and moved the smoke out again.

Smoke on the mountainWe are approximately two miles from the fire.  We live on Little Piney, then is Big Piney, then another small mountain I don't know the name of then Rocky Top.  Yes, this is the Rocky Top immortalized in song.  The fire is burning on the Del Rio side of the mountain so even when we drive around Big Piney to get a view of Rocky Top all we see is smoke rising from the back side of the mountain.  I do not believe we are in any danger at all, but would feel a lot better about it if we could get a good rainfall!

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