Winds from Irene fuel brush fire in Bradley County - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Winds from Irene fuel brush fire in Bradley County

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BRADLEY COUNTY, TN.  (WRCB)  --  Strong winds from Hurricane Irene affected dozens in the Tennessee Valley over the weekend.   

A brush fire in Bradley County, began when a man was burning debris from April's tornadoes.  Thanks to Irene's winds the blaze grew fierce, and quickly spread over a large area.

The fire forced multiple evacuations off Benton Pike near Climer Road, where the brush fire burned 80 acres of private farm land. 

By Sunday afternoon the blaze was contained.  No homes were damaged, and no one was injured.

Bradley County Firefighter, Brent Bowles, got little sleep Saturday night before duty called him back to work Sunday morning.

"We still have the wind, heat and a low humidity," he says. 

Dry, windy conditions make a perfect combination to fuel any fire.  Add dead debris from the April tornadoes, and you've got a fast burning blaze.

"A neighbor was burning rubbish from the tornadoes," Bowles says.  "It got out of hand with the winds." 

Officials say the man on Julian Road, has been burning debris out of a pit for several weeks.  Saturday afternoon northern winds from Hurricane Irene turned a controlled burn out of control.

"Today we're doing some mopping up," says Bowles.  "We're making sure the fire stays contained."

Bowles and his partner spent Sunday traveling the dirt lines Tennessee Forestry crews dug the night before.  The firefighters cut debris, and put out hot spots.   

"The community is concerned," Bowles says.  "A lot of cars are driving by." 

The Covenant Hills subdivision is right across the street from where officials set up their command post.  Homeowner, Patricia Lang, watched the brush fire grow from her front door Saturday.

"It just exploded while we were watching," she says. 

Like her neighbors, Lang and her husband evacuated after a strong warning from officials.

"We just prayed," she says.  "We asked God to spare our home and our friends." 

The couple returned Sunday morning, grateful to find their house intact.  After also narrowly missing damage from the tornadoes four months ago, Lang says she's relieved.

"It's has been an unbelievable year," she says.  "We just feel so blessed." 

There are 25 homes inside Covenant Hills.  Most residents evacuated.  They were allowed to return around 1:00 a.m. Sunday.   

Bradley County does not have debris burn laws.  Tennessee law does not require a permit from May 15th to October 15th.  This means the man who started the blaze will not face any criminal charges.

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