Rains from Monday night have aided firefighters across Bell County, but fires continue to burn across Eastern Kentucky. The burn bans in the surrounding Tri-State are are still in effect, which means that no outdoor burning is allowed.
Fires are evident in Pineville where the city is surrounded by smoke and a thin line of fire in the woods near the roads.
“By no means are we ‘out of the woods’ so to speak, but the recent precipitation will give us all a chance to regroup and catch our breath. The good news is that there is a lot that every one of us can do to help,” said Josh Portie with the Kentucky Fire Prevention and Education Team.
He suggests that whether it’s from a campfire, BBQ or fireplace, it is important to make sure the coals are cold and out. Cool your coals the next time you put out your fire so you are not the cause of the next big wildfire.
Tennessee is being hit hard by the fires as well, especially in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized federal funds to reimburse costs to Tennessee to fight the Chimney Top Fire in Sevier County in GSMNP.
FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of the eligible firefighting costs for managing, mitigating and controlling the fire.
“We will continue to work closely with state and local responders who are on the front lines of this fire fight,” said FEMA Regional Administrator Gracia B. Szczech. “FEMA approved these funds to ensure they have every available resource.”
The fires started on Nov. 23 and had grown to more than 500 acres as of Tuesday morning. Breathing masks were being distributed Monday evening and areas of Sevier County were being evacuated due to flames and smoke.
Now, more than 70 residences are threatened or have burned as well as hotels, tourist attractions and restaurants in the city and surrounding area. Several roads and highways have closed, such as U.S. Route 4-11 from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina due to smoke.
Kelsey Gerhardt can be reached at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.