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November 11, 2016

TEMA Update on Drought and Wildfires, 11-11-16, 1 p.m., Central


• Level 3 – State of Emergency in place due to ongoing drought conditions and wildfire threats.

• TEMA worked with State Forestry and FEMA on second wildfire management assistance grant for the Smith Mountain wildfire complex in Bledsoe, Sequatchie and Hamilton counties

• Air quality conditions in the lower Cumberland Valley are concern, especially those with breathing conditions.

• Cooler temperatures and lower humidity persist with the next chance of any significant rain seven days away.


The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) activated the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan and set in place a Level 3 – State of Emergency, effective at 7 p.m., Central, on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.

The State of Emergency allows multi-jurisdictional engagement of local, state, and federal personnel and resources to be sure Tennessee is positioned to respond effectively and quickly to protect lives and property from what is emerging as a prolonged drought and wildfire threat in the state.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also granted today a fire assistance grant to reimburse the state for costs associated with fighting the Smith Mountain wildfire complex that includes the fires on Smith Mountain in Sequatchie County, Mowbary in Hamilton County, and Bench Bluff in Bledsoe County.

FEMA granted federal fire assistance to Tennessee on Wednesday for the Flippers Bend Fire in Hamilton County.

Approximately 302 of Tennessee’s 480 water systems are experiencing some level of drought impact, ranging from moderate to exceptional. At least three counties have requested water for residents whose wells have run completely dry of water.

In the past month, an estimated 6,000 to 6,200 acres have burned due to wildfires in Bledsoe, Hamilton, Monroe, and Sequatchie counties.
Currently, there are 53 active fires in Tennessee impacting 9,680 acres. On Wed., Nov. 9, 2016, residents in 10 to 15 homes near the Flippers Bend fire in Hamilton County were evacuated. An additional wildfire in Hamilton County and wildfires in Campbell and Sequatchie counties are also threatening homes and property.

Relief from the drought and wildfire threat is not imminent as weather forecasts are not showing any significant precipitation in Tennessee through the remainder of 2016.


Active Fires (fought in the past 24 hours):

Year to Date

Burn Bans
Claiborne, Cumberland, Jefferson, Loudon, Marion, Monroe, Robertson, Sevier

The Tennessee Department of 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 (TDEC) issued a Code Orange air quality alert today (Nov. 11, 2016) 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 persons with heart and lung disease, older adults, and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.


The area of extreme to exception drought in Tennessee is expanding. 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.

Drought Resources

• County Ag extension agents are primary source of assistance for farmers.

• Hay availability website:

• The Farm Services Agency (FSA) has several of USDA’s disaster relief programs:

• Agriculture Drought Information:

• FSA has the Livestock Forage Program and Emergency Loans available to producers due to drought. In Tennessee if more information is needed about the Livestock Forage Program Ron Eldridge can be contacted at or 615-277-2620. For Emergency Loans contact James Welborn at or 615-277-2627.

• TDEC’s Division of Water Resources webpage for listing of water systems in varying stages of drought response:


The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Nashville is staffed with representatives from TEMA, Tennessee Department of Human Resources, and Tennessee Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (TN VOAD).

TEMA coordination is ongoing through the SEOC with state and local partners involved in the wildfire response and drought monitoring. These partners include: 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.

TEMA is assisting 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


East Tennessee – Increasing winds with 30 percent humidity and temperatures in the lower to upper 60s. Cooler temps expected Saturday and lighter winds Sunday. Slight chance of rain Tuesday night, with more significant rain chance closer to the next weekend.

Middle Tennessee – Dry font in the area today with 35 percent humidity and increasing winds. Slight chance of rain Monday night and Tuesday. Dry conditions remain next week with greater chance of precipitation Friday night.

West Tennessee – Widespread frost possible Saturday to Sunday with daytime temps in the 60s. Rain possibly Monday night and a better chance of rain Saturday.

While Tennessee’s chances of rain over the next week may help the wildfire fight, the drought conditions will persist even with the rainfall expected, according to the National Weather Service.


• 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 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