Crews race time to contain Tellico Plains wildfire

Fire burning along historic Trail of Tears Corridor

Fire in Tellico Plains
Fire in Tellico Plains

TELLICO PLAINS (WATE) – Firefighters say the Quarry Creek Fire near Tellico Plains was on private lands and went into the Cherokee National Forest. Crews have contained 15 percent of the fires which spread 100 acres. There was no structural damage, however, five structures were threatened by flames.

A water dropping helicopter helped crews Thursday. Crews began to conduct burn out operations and continued creating containment lines. Firefighter in a race against time to contain the fire before a change in the weather makes the situation tougher. The land involved comes with history – it’s along the Trail of Tears Corridor.

The fire is burning in Monroe County at the edge of the Cherokee National Forest and is 15 percent contained. Firefighters say wind is a huge factor. Friday forecasts show wind, making the first 24 hours crucial.

Previous story: Regional burn ban issued for entire East Tennessee area

Helicopters dropped water from a nearby pond onto the fire every few minutes Thursday. The first priority is to contain areas near homes and businesses.

“There were about four homes and one business that were in the area of the fire so they worked to get the containment lines around those structures first,” said Mary Miller with the Cherokee National Forest.

Thirty firefighters have been at work since midnight Tuesday. It’s too early to say how large the fire is, but Miller says around 40 acres have burned so far. Good weather in the first 48 hours is critical. A lack of wind keeps the flames smaller.

“On the slope we’re seeing about four foot flame lengths. When it tops out on the slope and backing down the slope, it’s a lot more moderate. We’re seeing one to two foot flame lengths so it’s a lot more moderate,” said Amy McClave, Tellico Ranger District fire management officer.

On the sides that run on Cherokee National Forest land, firefighters are building containment lines by hand. Some crew members say they want to stop the fire while also being respectful of the land by not using machinery.

“It can be a bit dangerous in places for firefighters so we have to look where it’s safe to put them in. We have to do a lot of scouting in advance,” said McClave.

All of Monroe County is wanting to help the firefighters, so a drop-off location has been established at the Tellico Plains Police Department for people who want to give water, snacks, and food.

“It’s amazing to see the outpouring of love the community shows us when there’s a need,” said Chief Russ Parks of the Tellico Plains Police Department.

Chief Parks has decided to make his police headquarters the place people bring donations so that firefighters don’t have to move it around as they work.

“They’ve got enough to do and we’re here to help them as much as possible,” he said.

Right now, Chief Parks says for those who want to help it’s best to bring snacks and food.

“Anything that’s in a self-contained package they can slide in their pocket while they’re working on a fire.”

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