WEARS VALLEY, Tenn. (WATE) — The Wears Valley wildfire was reported 100% contained around 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to Sevier County officials and officials with Tennessee Division of Forestry.
According to Brook Smith, a spokesperson for the TN Division of Forestry, the 20-acre fire broke out Tuesday afternoon.
From Tuesday night through the day Wednesday, forestry crews mopped up remaining hot spots and reinforced the containment lines.
Thanks to a quick response from local firefighters, hundreds of firefighters were called in for mutual aid to help keep the fire away from structures in the area.
Homes had to be evacuated along Alf Ownby Road, Wears Mountain Lane, Autumn View Way and others in that area, according to Sevier County dispatch.
Some homes in the Dogwood Farms subdivision were also evacuated, according to Blount County Fire Chief Doug McClanahan.
Smith said some of the hottest flames were in the Dogwood Farms subdivision, along Black Bear Ridge Way.
“On this ridge (behind Blear Bear Ridge Way), there’s this home which is very close interaction and further up the ridge there’s another home where we cut off the head of the fire before it got further up the mountain,” Smith said.
Smith said two structures were damaged: a walkway and an elevated back porch; but no homes were damaged.
He said that local firefighters did a great job and had a great head start creating fire lines (barriers in the ground) and containing the fire.
When his forestry crews got on the scene, they started using bulldozers and shovels to create more fire lines.
Smith said the fire could have damaged a lot more homes in the Dogwood Farms neighborhood, at some homeowners not taken preventative measures and made their homes Firewise.
For example, one neighbor said in 2014, he started clearing out trees in his backyard, creating a green space–and kept it clean of debris.
That resident said he was able to recently convince his next door neighbor to chop down young pine trees in their backyard as well.
Smith said that move made a huge difference.
“His neighbor cut those young pine trees two weeks ago. And, so that was a huge safety measure that probably prevented all three of the structures on this hillside from catching embers and igniting,” Smith said.
With how high the flames got on that side of the mountain, having those trees could’ve made the fire spread more easily to the homes.
“It kept the fire on the ground level, instead of having it mid-story of young pines, which would be much more intense heat. It could lap over a driveway, and it also would be throwing a lot more embers, which could catch in other locations around,” Smith said.
Smith said the conditions on Tuesday were no where near the same conditions leading up to and during the 2016 wildfires.
Although the mountains were a little dry, the ground and trees had more moisture than back in 2016; plus, the winds Tuesday night weren’t raging like they were in 2016.
After the 2016 wildfires, local community officials put several different communication strategies in place to notify residents and visitors quickly.
“Officials decided to notify the affected people of the Wears Valley fire in person due to the fire’s size, location, number of houses, and the fact that first responders got to the scene quickly. Sevier County Sheriff’s deputies went to the homes in the area and informed residents of the situation. Code Red was an option and, had the conditions worsened, would have been used,” said Perrin Anderson, Sevier County Assistant Mayor.
Smith said the cause of the wildfire is under investigation.