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November 15, 2016

TEMA Drought & Wildfires Update, 11-15-16, 2 p.m., Central


HIGHLIGHTS

• Gov. Bill Haslam issues burn ban for 51 Tennessee counties. Details here: http://www.tn.gov/news/46739

• Check drought conditions for your zip code: https://www.drought.gov/drought/drought-my-backyard

• Air quality information is available at https://tn.gov/environment/article/apc-tennessee-air-quality-forecasting-program

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

• Next rain chance expected into the weekend.


TENNESSEE ARSON HOTLINE: 1-800-762-3017


CURRENT SITUATION


Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has issued a proclamation declaring a regional ban on burning in 51 counties in response to the ongoing drought and destructive wildfires throughout Middle and East Tennessee.


Wildfire smoke and haze has lessened in Middle Tennessee today but is still present in a large portion of East Tennessee. Residents in these areas of Tennessee will see and smell smoke. Residents do not need call 9-1-1 unless they see smoke actually rising from the ground.


Wildfire smoke has hit Chattanooga-area residents particularly hard. Tennessee Department of Health reports more than 200 patients have been hospitalized in Chattanooga for shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties related to the circle of wildfires surrounding the city. Since Fri., Nov. 11, CHI Memorial has treated 96 patients from Chattanooga and Hixson for breathing difficulties related to the smoke, including 37 in the past 24 hours. Erlanger has treated nearly 120 patients for shortness of breath also since Nov. 1.


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 Tennessee two fire assistance grants to reimburse the state for costs associated with fighting the Smith Mountain wildfire in Sequatchie, Hamilton and Bledsoe County, and 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.


There have been 15 NEW fires in the previous 24 hours in Tennessee impacting 293 acres.


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.


WILDFIRES


Active Fires (fought in the past 24 hours, totals as of 7 p.m., 11-14-16)

FIRES: 67 | ACRES BURNED: 15,914

Year to Date

TOTAL NUMBER OF FIRES: 1,238 | TOTAL ACRES BURNED: 36,864


Major Fires

• Neddy Mt (Cocke) 885 acres, 75% contained
• Flippers Bend (Hamilton) 1000 acres, 95% contained
• Poe Rd. (Hamilton) 550 acres, 60% contained
• Mowbray (Hamilton) 800 acres, 70% contained
• White Oak Circle (Morgan) 1888 acres, 70% contained
• Bench Bluff (Bledsoe) 1,800 acres, 95% contained
• Smith Mt (Sequatchie) 960 acres, 100% contained
• Cliff Tops (Marion) 80 acres, 100% contained
• Stiles (Monroe) 225 acres, 100% contained


Air Quality

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has a Code Orange Air Quality Alert in place today (11/15/16) for the following MSAs:

• Chattanooga
• Knoxville
• Great Smoky Mountains
• Tri-Cities


A Code Orange Air Quality Alert means that although the general public is not likely to be affected at this AQI range, persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.


Depending on wind direction and proximity to the wildfires, some areas, such as Chattanooga, may have higher air quality concentrations in the Red category, which will have wider health impacts on the general population and cause more serious effects on sensitive groups.


Tomorrow (11/16/16) TDEC will have a Code Red air quality alert in place for the Chattanooga, Knoxville, Great Smoky Mountains, and Tri-Cities areas. A Code Orange alert will be in place tomorrow for the Nashville area.


Burn Bans

Gov. Haslam’s regional burn ban covers the following 51 counties: Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Campbell, Cannon, Carter, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Coffee, Cumberland, Dekalb, Fentress, Franklin, Grainger, Greene, Grundy, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hawkins, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Loudon, Macon, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Polk, Putnam, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Smith, Sullivan, Trousdale, Unicoi, Union, Van Buren, Warren, Washington, and White.


Effective immediately, residents in the counties covered by the regional ban are not permitted to conduct any open-air burning. The ban includes campfires, and burning of brush, vegetation, household waste or construction debris. The ban will remain in effect until December 15.


Additionally, Robertson and Sumner counties in Middle Tennessee are under an Agriculture Commissioner ban on burning.


DROUGHT


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: http://picktnproducts.org

• The Farm Services Agency (FSA) has several of USDA’s disaster relief programs: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/disaster-assistance-program/index

• Agriculture Drought Information: https://extension.tennessee.edu/Pages/ANR-CED-Drought.aspx

• 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 ron.eldridge@tn.usda.gov or 615-277-2620. For Emergency Loans contact James Welborn at James.welborn@tn.usda.gov or 615-277-2627.

• TDEC’s Division of Water Resources webpage for listing of water systems in varying stages of drought response: http://tn.gov/environment/topic/wr-drought-planning


RESPONSE ACTIVITIES


Since Sun., Nov. 6, the Tennessee Army National Guard (TNARG) has conducted 476 water air drop missions in support of wildfire fighting efforts in east Tennessee.


American Red Cross and TEMA are providing meals and water to Division of Forestry crews engaged in wildfire fight.


The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Nashville is staffed and 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, Tennessee Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.


TEMA is assisting with water deliveries last week to residents in Bledsoe and Carter counties who are experience shortages.


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


WEATHER FORECAST

Best chance of rain is Friday, possibly into Saturday for the western region of the state. The system will weaken as it crosses eastward with diminishing chances of precipitation in the eastern half of the state. Relative humidity will increase with the passage of the system. Expect highs temperatures in the mid to upper 60s and lows in the upper 30s.


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.