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November 18, 2016

TEMA Update on Drought & Wildfires, 11-18-16, 12 p.m., Central


• An approaching, though fast-moving, cold front MAY bring a slight chances of much-needed rain to Tennessee this weekend. Even small amounts of rain would help with the 11 major wildfires currently burning in Tennessee.

• Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) posts personal protection information for respiratory smoke exposure:

• Check air quality information at: or

• Check drought conditions for your zip code:

Tennessee arson hotline is 1-800-762-3017 and is answered 24 hours a day. Report arson activity also to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Crime Unit at 1-844-AGCRIME (1-844-242-7463). Callers may remain anonymous.


New wildfires in Blount and Hancock counties have impacted more than 100 acres since yesterday. While the Blount County fire in East Miller Cove is 50% contained, firefighters are working today to contain the Hancock County fire in Cool Branch. There are now 11 major wildfires in Tennessee with nine of these ranging from 70% to 100% containment.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam issued a proclamation on Nov. 14 declaring a regional ban on burning in 51 counties in response to the ongoing drought and destructive wildfires throughout Middle and East Tennessee.

Residents in these areas of Tennessee where the smoky haze and smell is present do not need call 9-1-1 unless they see smoke actually rising from the ground.

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.

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.


As of 7 p.m., Central, on 11-17-16, there had been 17 NEW fires in the previous 24 hours in Tennessee impacting 391 acres.

Active Fires (fought in the last 24 hours)


Year to Date

Major Fires

• East Miller Cove (Blount) unknown acres, 50% contained
• Cool Branch Cove (Hancock) 100 acres, 0% contained
• Neddy Mt (Cocke) 1,116 acres, 85% contained
• White Oak Circle (Morgan) 1,888 acres/100% contained
• Flippers Bend (Hamilton) 979 acres, 95% contained
• Poe Rd. (Hamilton) 712 acres, 80% contained
• Mowbray (Hamilton) 865 acres, 70% contained
• Hobbstown (Sequatchie) 181 acres/100% contained
• Sunshine (Sequatchie) 46 acres/100%
• Bench Bluff (Bledsoe) 2,109 acres, 100% contained
• Cave Cove (Marion) 170 acres, 90% contained

Air Quality
The Air Quality Index for Tennessee today shows a Code Orange patch from the Kentucky state line, through Cumberland Plateau, eastward past Knoxville, and up to the eastern tip of the State. A Code Orange air quality alert means those with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.

The remainder of Tennessee westward, to just beyond the Tennessee River is under a Code Yellow air quality alert, meaning sensitive groups should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.

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.

More details at:

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

The Governor’s regional burn ban applies to open-air burning near woodlands and includes a prohibition of campfires, and burning of brush, vegetation, and construction debris. Generally, the burn ban does NOT apply to cooking grills and other similar lighted devices that are well established in a confined, protected area away from woodlands. However, as a precaution, the disposal of hot grill ashes can be a fire hazard. Grill ashes should be allowed to completely cool or wetted before disposal in all cases. The burning of household waste is never allowed under state air quality laws. More information is available at:


The current U.S. Drought Monitor report shows much of Tennessee in Severe to Exceptional drought status. An Extreme drought band stretches from lower Middle Tennessee through the Cumberland Plateau to the far eastern part of the State. Exceptional drought rules in the lower southeastern corner in the counties surrounding the Chattanooga area.

Details at:

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:


Wildland firefighters from 10 states, including Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Oklahoma, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Washington are supporting Tennessee’s efforts to contain, control, and mitigate the wildfire threat. Another 20 State and Federal agencies are engaged in either fighting the wildfires directly or in coordinating the efforts and resources for those who are.

Since Sun., Nov. 6, the Tennessee Army National Guard (TNARG) has conducted 677 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


East TN – 60 percent chance of rain Saturday with highs in the 40s and lows in the mid-20s; sunny otherwise with 45% humidity; next chance of rain comes Wednesday next week.

Middle TN – Approaching cold front brings a chance of rain Friday and cooler temperatures Saturday, with highs in the 50s and lows around 30.

West TN – Thunderstorms this evening and tonight with cooler temperatures Satuday. Rain possibility again on Wednesday.


• 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