UPDATE: Heavy smoke blankets Tennessee Valley, affecting thousan - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Heavy smoke blankets Tennessee Valley, affecting thousands

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UPDATE: Wildfires in the Tennessee Valley left a blanket of smoke over the area.

The smoke is not only coming from one wildfire in our area. Much of what people saw on Monday came from several fires across the Tennessee Valley like the one on Signal Mountain.

Officials said it could be weeks before the smoke goes away.

"It's just smoke is coming in from everywhere right now," Shannon Gann of the Tennessee Forestry Division said.

Smoke from wildfires made it difficult for people to breathe. Some fires reignited over the weekend from the windy and dry conditions. 

"It makes your eyes burn and it's in the air so you smell it. You can smell it in your clothes and in your hair a little bit sometimes," Marianne Bruce who was visiting family said.

Marianne Bruce was in town visiting her uncle from California.

She's used to seeing wildfires in the fall back home, but not in Tennessee.

"So that would be my concern, the safety of everyone. It looks like pretty rough terrain up there," Bruce said.

The fire has grown to more than 200 acres and at the moment, no homes are in danger. Officials are warning people to stay indoors because of the smoke especially kids, elderly people, and anyone with breathing problems.

"Be very careful right now because of the smoke. It's going to smoke for a while," Gann said.

Tennessee Forestry Division officials suspect arson as a possible cause for the fire. This one is about a mile from another recent fire on signal mountain started by someone who left a campfire burning.

"When you go up there and you look and there was no lightning strike, no debris pile that was burning that escaped because there's no burning going on right now, then that leaves you with arson," Gann said.

Crews are using a number of tools to get the fire under control including helicopters dumping water and a plane using fire retardant.

Throughout the day, many people stopped by to look at the smoke. Paulette Keasler said she's been keeping an eye on the fire for days.

"It's just sad that so much is going to be destroyed and the safety of the people that have to go up there and work that, that's a danger too," Keasler said.

She's upset at the damage it's causing, but knows firefighters are doing their best.

The fire is about a third contained.

Officials said the smoke many saw is usually worse in the morning compared to the afternoon.


UPDATE: The Chattanooga School For Arts and Sciences school notified parents Monday morning that if their children have respiratory problems they should contact the school to bring them home for the day if necessary due to the severity of the smoke covering the area.

Parents should be aware that:

  • Schools with exterior air conditioning units may see see smoke inside buildings
  • Children with respiratory problems are advised to keep inhalers with them.
  • Parents are asked to use their discretion on checking students with respiratory problems out for the day

Smoke from the numerous fires around the Tennessee Valley has created a very smoky morning Monday.

In some areas, visibility has been reduced to about 1/2 mile. Light morning winds are not expected to help move the smoke from the valley. This afternoon's winds, expected to be 5-10 mph, may not help either to dissipate the smoke.

Motorists should expect the smoke to reduce visibility on highways, so allow extra time for your trip. 

People with breathing and related health issues should minimize the time spent outside today.

In the Fog Zone along Interstate 75 area near Charleston, TN, the speed limit has been lowered as a precautionary measure.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau issued the following statement Monday morning:

Wildfires in the area are creating smoky conditions. A temperature inversion has occurred this morning creating a layer of smoke that has not dissipated.  We expect the air quality to improve later this morning as the inversion lifts.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau encourages residents to take precautions if they smell smoke or are in an area near the wildfires.

We encourage residents to:

  • Stay indoors with the windows and doors closed.

  • Avoid running the air conditioner if possible.  If it cannot be avoided, run the air conditioner in your home or car with the fresh air intake closed.

  • Minimize or avoid outdoor activities, especially physical exertion during smoky conditions.

  • Monitor air quality conditions.

  • People in high-risk groups, including children, pregnant women, older adults, those with lung disease, including COPD or asthma, should limit outside activities.

  • Additionally, small pets can also be impacted by unhealthy air and should be brought indoors if possible.

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