Friday, December 02, 2016

Chimney2Fire (TN) - some info and reflections

I have never been to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, I am hoping that one day in the not to distant future that I will get a chance to visit this special place. It is somewhat hard hard to explain how I grew to love and feel an attachment for the Smokies. Over 20 years ago I had done some reading and research on the Smokies for a project that I was involved with at the time. Perhaps it is time for me to revisit those books and my notes from that project.

Any wildfire that takes lives and leaves destroys residences and other buildings is sad. Like many of you, I have been hearing about the wildfire known as the Chimney2fire on various news outlets. I knew that I had to write something about the Chimney2fire because the place is special to me. 

The Chimney2fire was first reported on November 23rd in a remote section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This area has steep terrain with vertical cliffs that challenged wildland firefighting efforts. As some of you know, this region has seen severe drought conditions for awhile now, and these drought conditions coupled with high winds resulted in rapid growth of this fire on November 27th. The fire has burned 17,859 acres to date and there is no containment.

The city of Gatlinburg Tennessee lies in the middle of this wildland fire perimeter. As I write this, there are 7 deaths from the wildfire. Seven hundred structures are confirmed to be loss. There are reports of missing persons in the Gatlinburg area and environs and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has established a hotline (see this news report for more information) to investigate reports of missing persons. Evacuations remain in place for Gatlinburg.

I just read the December 1st morning report from the Southern Area Coordination Center (Morning Reports are updated daily during fire season). As of December 1st there were crews, wildfire suppression modules from: Alaska, South Dakota, Utah.Montana, California, Oregon, Arizona (some States sending multiple crews). There are a lot of aviation resources available in the southern region, including air attack platforms, aerial supervision modules, type 1 air tankers (T-40, T-10, T-131, T-162), two Scoopers (S-262, S-263), 8 SEATS, and a large number of helicopters of various sizes. There are a total of 18 uncontained large wildfires in the southern region according to the December 1st morning report that have burned 143, 973 acres. So I am certain that some of these aviation resources are supporting other wildfires in the south. However, some of these aviation resources are working the Chimney2fire.

As for rainfall, yes there was rain that fell in the area of the Chimney2fire earlier this week, and this rainfall did help in suppression efforts. But per a December 1st news release on the Chimney2fire :
Although Sevier County received significant amounts of moisture yesterday, more will be needed. “We had really good rain, but not enough to make up the deficit. Don’t let this rain give you a false sense of security.” Michael Proud, Incident Meteorologist, warned. Warmer weather, wind and decreased humidity will increase fire activity during the peak of the day. “The fire is not out, it is just knocked down.” Mark Jamieson, Operations Section Chief, stated
My thoughts and prayers are with the citizens of Gaitlinbug and environs. I’d like to thank all the wildland firefighters from Tennessee and adjoining states as well as those from across the country who are working this wildfires. Stay safe.

Some of you may want to read more about the efforts being made to fight the Chimney2fire. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today  has been doing a very good job reporting on this fire, and you may access Bill's articles through this link which will lead you to articles tagged with Chimney2fire.

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