Forest fires break out in Polk County - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Forest fires break out in Polk County

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POLK COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - This hot and dry weather is causing a breakout of forest fires in Polk County. There are several hundred acres burning as we speak.

There are three active forest fires burning in the Cherokee National Forest right now. The first started on Monday. Two others started Thursday. Putting them out is proving to be an intense battle.

"The extreme drought and the high temperatures cause the fires to spread and makes it very difficult to control them," Nina Barrow with USDA Forest Services said.

Channel 3 tagged along with forestry officials out surveying the area. Flames and smoke mixed with the intense heat is a dangerous combination. That means anyone going near the fires, has to wear safety gear.

There are 50 acres burning at Coon Creek, 223 acres at Goforth and around 400 acres at Iron Mountain Chase.

It's terrain so rough, firefighters have to ditch their trucks and hike to the fire all while wearing heavy fireproof suits and carrying tools.

"Heat is a real issue in fighting the fires," Barrow said.

They say more important than controlling the fire, is keeping the 120 firefighters from Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi safe in the heat. It's something that's not usually an issue because forest fire season isn't until fall.

"Ordinarily we'd have enough moisture and humidity this time of the year," Barrow said.

With hot, dry conditions making the fires harder to knock out, they're building what they call a containment line around them to prevent more spreading.

"You can see here where a bulldoze has gone up through the forest to take the soil down to bare dirt," Barrow said.

The good news is that no homes or businesses are being threatened at this time.

They say it will likely take several more days to control the fires.

Safety officials are on scene to make sure firefighters are taking frequent breaks and drinking plenty of water.

They are sending out a reminder to any visitors in Cherokee National Forest that fireworks are not allowed and are especially dangerous right now.

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