WALLAND (WATE) – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture says a wildfire burning in Walland has scorched 600 acres and is 25 percent contained.
The mountains aren’t visible at all from parts of Highway 321 as the entire area is engulfed in thick white smoke.
“The fire started yesterday about lunch time and it’s continuing to grow. Trying to get a good handle on it. Tennessee Forestry Service is plowing lines around it. We’re protecting structures, but it’s continuing to grow. The wind is not helping us,” said Walland Fire Chief Doug McClanahan.
Crews are also fighting about three other fires in Blount County – a completely contained two-acre fire on Butterfly Gap, one in Walland on Burnett Road and one in Towsend.
About 20 firefighters from the Blount County Fire Department and about seven firefighters and seven bulldozers from the forestry department were on the scene in Walland Friday.
“They’re plowing lines with dozers to cut the fire off. We’re using water where the fire does flare up close to the houses, and we’re doing a whole lot of monitoring to make sure where that fires going,” said McClahahan.
The National Guard began dropping water on the East Millers Cove fire at noon Friday. Fire administrators said winds are making containing the fire difficult.
The only evacuation so far has been Walland Elementary School. Classes let out early on Thursday and the school was closed on Friday. Blount County Sheriff’s Office said Old Walland Highway is closed from the Walland Center to Melrose Bridge.
“It is not contained at this time and I’m not going to give a percentage because I’m not real sure what that percentage would be. We’re just continuing to say it’s still out of control and we don’t have a control time on that at all right now,” McClanhahan said.
Residents say their cars and homes are covered in ash and they are worried for their safety. The wildfire has turned into a nightmare for them.
“Your eyes are burning, your nose is going to be raw, back of your throat’s going to be raw from breathing it. I have a son who has asthma so he’s having a difficult time right now dealing with it. He’s having to hit his inhaler a lot more,:” said lifelong Walland resident Edward Poole.
He says he is concerned for the entire community.
“I’m concerned for everybody that lives here just because we’re close knit and this is a small little community here. And everybody knows everybody and we all think of each other when something like this happens.”
There is a Red Cross shelter open if people need it, but as of Friday evening, no one is staying there. The cause of the fire is under investigation.