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November 10, 2016

Tennessee Drought and Wildfires Update, 11-10-16, 4 p.m., Central


HIGHLIGHTS

• TEMA works with FEMA on fire assistance grant for Flippers Bend fire in Hamilton County.

• Three counties – Campbell, Hamilton, Sequatchie – have homes under threat of fire impact.

• Moderate to exceptional drought conditions felt across all of Tennessee.

• Weather trend of low humidity will continue. Lower night temps ease fire spread.


CURRENT SITUATION
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized federal funds to reimburse the State of Tennessee for costs association to fight the Flippers Bend fire in Hamilton County. The authorization makes FEMA grant funding available to reimburse 75 percent of the eligible firefighting costs for labor, equipment, and supplies used to fight the fire.


Approximately 10 to 15 homes near the Flippers Bend fire were evacuated on Wed., Nov. 9 with residents relocating to stay with family members.


Homes near the Stinking Creek and Trail #17 fires in Campbell County, the Smith Mountain fire in Sequatchie County, and the Mowbary fire in Hamilton County are under threat also.


In the last month an estimated 6,000 to 6,200 acres have burned in Bledsoe, Hamilton, Monroe, and Sequatchie counties.


Regarding drought monitoring, large areas of East and Middle Tennessee, and the southeastern corner of West Tennessee, have counties in the severe to exceptional drought ranges.


Approximately 302 of Tennessee 480 water systems are experiencing some level of drought impact.


ISSUES BY AREA


Wildfires


Active Fires (fought in the past 24 hours):
FIRES: 53 | ACRES BURNED: 9,680


Calendar year to date
TOTAL NUMBER OF FIRES: 1,165 | TOTAL ACRES BURNED: 32,655


The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has instituted burn bans for six counties: Claiborne, Jefferson, Loudon, Monroe, Roberson, and Sevier. Agriculture does not expect any No Safe Burning Permits to be issued statewide until the State receives substantial precipitation.


The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will issue a Code Orange air quality alert on Nov. 11 for the Chattanooga metropolitan area, which includes Hamilton, Marion, and Sequatchie counties in Tennessee, and Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties in Georgia. A Code Orange Air Quality Alert means that although the general public is not likely to be affected, persons with heart and lung disease, older adults, and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.


Water Supply

The area of extreme to exception drought in Tennessee is expanding into upper East Tennessee. Approximately 107 water systems are experiencing extreme to exceptional drought conditions. Another 195 water systems are in the severe drought category.


Counties in the exceptional drought category include: Bradley, Hamilton, Marion, Meigs, McMinn, Monroe, Poke, Rhea, and Sequatchie.


The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has set up a Drought Update webpage at: https://tn.gov/environment/topic/wr-drought-planning, with information on Tennessee water systems currently impacted.


The University of Tennessee’s Extension Office is providing farmers and families information at https://extension.tennessee.edu/Pages/ANR-CED-Drought.aspx on drought resources.


HELPFUL WEBSITES
Burn Bans and Wildfire Information: www.BurnSafeTN.org
Drought Impacts: https://tn.gov/environment/topic/wr-drought-planning
Agriculture Drought Information: https://extension.tennessee.edu/Pages/ANR-CED-Drought.aspx
Air Quality Information: https://tn.gov/environment/article/apc-tennessee-air-quality-forecasting-program


RESPONSE ACTIVITIES


TEMA assisted with water deliveries last week to residents in Bledsoe and Carter counties who are experience shortages. Another delivery to Bledsoe County will occur this week.


Tennessee Army National Guard (TNARG) personnel are assisting with the wildfire response in providing TNARG helicopters for wildfire water drops and observation missions.


Tennessee State Parks has officially issued burn bans for the following state parks:

• Pickett State Park/Pogue Creek Canyon
• South Cumberland State Park
• Cumberland Mountain State Park
• Fall Creek Falls State Park
• Norris Dam State Park
• Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park


The Drought & Wildfire Task Force is meeting weekly with members to establish a common operating picture of the drought and wildfire threat to ensure effective coordination and risk communication among state and local partners.


Task Force members include representatives with the Tennessee departments of Agriculture and its Division of Forestry; Commerce and Insurance and the State Fire Marshal, Correction, Environment and Conservation, Health, Human Services, Military, and Transportation, and Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee Highway Patrol, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The Tennessee Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (TN WARN), an agency providing mutual aid and assistance to utilities in the state, is also participating on the Task Force.


WEATHER FORECAST
Expecting continued trend of low relative humidity and higher than average daytime temperatures. Low temperatures at night provide some relief, as fires do not spread as fast.


KEY MESSAGES

• Stay abreast of wildfire danger levels and heed warnings and bans on outdoor burning in your area.
• Remember, from October 15 through May 15, anyone starting an open-air fire in Tennessee within 500 feet of a forest, grassland, or woodland must secure a burning permit from the Division of Forestry. The free permit can be obtained by phone or on online at www.BurnSafeTN.org. Local jurisdictions may have other ordinances and permitting systems in place for open-air burning.
• Avoid burning on windy, dry days. When conditions are windy or dry, it is easy for open burning to spread out of control.
Closely supervise all outdoor fires. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving.
• Have an adult present at all times when a bonfire, chiminea, fire pit, or outdoor fireplace is burning.
• A grill should be placed well away from buildings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. If using a charcoal grill, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.
• Establish wide control lines down to bare mineral soil at least five feet wide around any burn barrels and even wider around brush piles and other piled debris to be burned.
• If you burn in a burn barrel or other trash container, be sure it is equipped with a ½” mesh screen or metal grid to keep burning material contained.
• Avoid throwing lit cigarettes out of vehicles. This type of litter can quickly start grass fires that can lead to dangerous traffic situations, such as low visibility and congestion.
• Never park a vehicle over a pile of leaves. The heat from the vehicle’s catalytic converter or exhaust system could ignite the leaves below.
• Keep water and hand tools ready in case your fire should attempt to spread.
• In the unfortunate event that a fire does get out of control, call 911 immediately and wait in a safe place for the arrival of the local fire department.


About the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency: TEMA’s mission is to coordinate preparedness, response and recovery from man-made, natural and technological hazards in a professional and efficient manner in concert with our stakeholders. Follow TEMA on Facebook, TNDisasterInfo, on Twitter, @T_E_M_A, and at www.tnema.org.