Firefighters on high alert for potential wildfires with low humidity and windy weather

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Fire departments across Tennessee are on high alert as wildfires continue to be a problem this week. Crews have worked on at least seven on Wednesday, but experts say the problem is normal for this time of year.

Earlier this week in Maury County, firefighters worked for three hours trying to contain a 5-acre grass fire.

In Fentress County, crews worked overnight on Tuesday after a wildfire spread across 1,000 acres. According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, nearly 20 personnel used bulldozers, and more than a dozen water pumpers to fight the flames.

“The old vegetation on the ground, the leaves, the sticks, that’s very fine fuel, and right now especially on windy days like today, that’s dry,” explained Tim Phelps with the Tennessee Division of Forestry, “And if it ignites, on fire, it could easily spread into a wildfire.”

Phelps says high winds and dry weather conditions create the prefect combination for grass fires that can burn out of control and cause larger problems.

“These light, loose, crackly leaves on the ground, these are the light fuels that can easily ignite and easily spread a fire. [That’s] versus a twig that might be an inch or so in diameter, it might be dried out. It’s going to take longer for it to light on fire, that fire lasts longer and it’s harder to put out,” said Phelps.

However, fire isn’t the only thing crews have to battle.

In Fentress County, spot fires continued to break out. Crews were able to set control lines to stop the flames from spreading, but it didn’t come easily. Places with steep terrain, similar to what crews saw in Fentress County, make it difficult to use bulldozers to dig control lines. Instead, crews had to create them by hand.

“What they are doing is going along and scraping the vegetation of the ground, down to bare minimum soil which does not burn, so as the fire gets to that point, it stops right there,” said Phelps.

Phelps added that smoke can be a big threat as well, “The wind is coming from below the city, the south side of the city, and it’s blowing that smoke right into the city, and so respiratory issues, air quality issues are always in play in regard to wildfire.”

Phelps encourages people who may be living close to where a fire is blazing to stay inside and turn on your air conditioner to help circulate air.

The department is warning the public about illegal burning on private land, with a burn ban in effect for the entire state. However, Phelps says it’s considered more of a restriction until more humidity comes into the area.

Phelps added even the smallest amount of friction from a lawnmower or other yard equipment can spark a fire.

The Tennessee State Department has a full list of wildfires crews are actively battling, to help people be aware of any smoke and danger in your area.

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