Wildfire concerns continue in East Tennessee

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The severe drought conditions have been a challenge for local firefighters. East Tennessee officially upgraded to severe drought Thursday. Crews have been fighting wildfires primarily on the plateau and further east of Knoxville, which is why they’re warning everyone to be especially careful.

Firefighters say if you plan on burning brush or having a bonfire this weekend, you should wait.

Jeremiah McLeod’s backyard looks like left behind yard work, but it’s for good reason.

“It’s a little windy. So, I’d still be hesitant to burn today,” he said.

Related story: Residents briefly evacuated from Scott County brush fire

He’s been waiting nearly two months to burn two piles of brush, keeping his eye on the sky every day.

“To prevent burning my house down and my neighbor’s house down, we’ll wait until it’s appropriate conditions and then we’ll burn then,” said McLeod.

Tennessee’s Forestry Division says while the rain has helped, the wind on Friday will dry things out.

“We’re going to have to have quite a bit of rain to recover from the drought. The unfortunate thing is we’ve had the drought and now we’re going into winter which is our driest time of the year,” said Nathan Waters with Tennessee Forestry Division.

Waters says fortunately there haven’t been many brush fires.

Related: Roane County crews battle brush fire

“We’ve had welding and power lines, that’s stuff that doesn’t usually cause fires. That stuff is acting up now because it’s so dry.”

Crews are still in Campbell County watching and fighting a 280 acre wildfire.

“It is very important people are safe,” added Waters.

As a way to stay safe, call and check for any restrictions in your county. Wven let your local fire department know that you’ll be burning brush.

“It’s nice to have a little fire in the backyard every now and again,” said McLeod.

When conditions are right, firefighters say to have water and hand tools close by in case the fire spreads. It’s also suggested to burn later in the day, generally after 5 p.m.

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