JAMESTOWN, Tenn. (WATE)– The 1,000-acre wildfire in Fentress County has been contained to 85% as of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Tennessee Division of Forestry crews were called to a rural area about 5 miles outside of Jamestown Tuesday afternoon.
Tim Phelps, a spokesperson for the Forestry Division, said crews worked quickly to start containing the fire and determine the size.
He said assessing the whole size was difficult because firefighters originally found several little fires that created the whole fire.
Wednesday, Phelps said the goal was to get crews on foot, creating fire containment lines by hand.
“Containing fires is what we do. We don’t necessarily put them out right away. We work to contain them by developing control lines around them, down to bare mineral soil,” Phelps said.
Phelps said fires need fuel, heat and oxygen.
If they can take away one of those, they can put out the fire.
He said bare mineral soil doesn’t burn, so that’s why they create fire lines.
Phelps said they were using bulldozers to create containment lines, but some of the terrains were too steep, so crews had to dig them by hand (rakes).
He said the other tool they used was fighting fire with fire.
If the wildfire was creeping toward the edge of the containment line, then they would burn the back edge of the line so the new fire could meet up with the wildfire, killing the fuel in the process.
Phelps said they also had contingency plans in place in case those tools weren’t working.
“If the fire were to break over that containment line, or control line, we have another line to catch it. So that’s what’s called the contingency line,” Phelps said.
Phelps said a lot of conditions were working in the crews favor to get the fire contained fast.
The first fortunate aspect is the nearest city, Jamestown, was still at least five miles away.
“This is a bear of fire in terms of its size and its rugged terrain. We are fortunate there are no structures threatened in that area and we’re doing our best to shore up the safety of the community,” Phelps said.
He said the rainy year of 2020 and the recent snow and ice meant the grounds weren’t completely dry.
While East Tennesseans might think back to the Gatlinburg wildfires whenever another large fire appears, Phelps said wildfires this time of year are common.
However, a 1,000-acre wildfire in Fentress County isn’t.
Although the fire is big, Phelps said the conditions were nowhere near as bad as they were ahead of, and during the 2016 wildfires.
“The underlying conditions on the forest floor are completely saturated from all the rain we’ve had, the snow, the ice, and honestly all the precipitation we had last year. So we are nowhere near a condition that we’re concerned about another 2016 right now,” Phelps said.
Phelps said the cause of the fire is unknown, and they won’t be able to start figuring it out until the fire is fully contained.
He said how long it takes for crews to fully contain the fire just depends on the current circumstances.
Smoke was expected to be an issue Wednesday afternoon, but the winds were able to lift it up out of the air quickly.
Residents living with a couple of miles from the fire said they didn’t notice any smoke issues.
Phelps said if Jamestown residents do notice more smoke in the air, they should take precautions.
“The best thing to do is stay inside. Try to stay out of the smoke. And if you’ve got an air conditioner, turn it on, because the filters in an air conditioner can help reduce the particulates of smoke and help clean the air a little bit,” Phelps said.