Blount County community works to protect homes from wildfires

TOP OF THE WORLD (WATE) - A Blount County community received recognition for making itself better protected from wildfires. Top of the World has been designated a "Firewise" community.

The community is known for its sprawling mountain views looking out over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"I love the community. I've got wonderful memories of swimming, and hiking, and hunting and bike riding," said Mike McClurg.

These mountains are scarred from recent wildfires, notably the one just over the ridge in Sevier County with winds gusting nearly 100 miles per hour.

"I would hate to see something like that happen in our community and it was trying with the winds that we had that night," said McClurg.

Another wildfire last year scorched nearly 1,500 acres in Walland. Both of those fires were motivation for homeowners in Top of the World to be what the state designates as a "Firewise" community. Residents cleaned up leaves on the ground and in gutters and created space between homes and brush, minimizing the ways fire can spread.

"This is really a big deal because the homeowners have acknowledged, you know, that they're in the wildland urban interface and that it could be a problem in the future so they're preparing for it," said Nathan Waters with the State Division of Forestry.

"We try to keep at least 10 or 12 feet off the building here to where there's nothing flammable," said Bo Gillooly with Eagle Rock Lodge.

It's really important is to make sure that you have as much defensible space as possible  all the way around your house, as well as making sure there's nothing on your porch or on your house that can easily catch fire.

"We've had fires up here before where the fire has come right up to the property line, but we feel like because we've done this, there was no major damage. We were able to control a lot of it," said Gillooly.

People here have been working for several years to get the Firewise designation, an important step to keeping their homes safe.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Waters.

There are 16 Firewise communities across the state. The Forestry Service says they can work with communities and individuals to make sure their homes are protected from fire.

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