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WILDFIRE WATCH

UPDATE: Daily weather changes a challenge in fighting wildfires

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Smoke and fire creep closer to a Signal Mountain home Thursday. WRCBtv.com photo Smoke and fire creep closer to a Signal Mountain home Thursday. WRCBtv.com photo

UPDATE: Since October 8th, the Tennessee Division of Forestry has been trying to contain more than 50 ongoing and new wildfires in Tennessee, including several in Hamilton County.

Spokesperson Tim Phelps says each day starts with watching local TV forecasts and a conference call with the National Weather Service.

"We work with the Memphis station, Nashville station, as well as the Morristown station to get region-wide updates on today's forecast as well as the extended forecast," says Phelps.

Even without rain, the weather can change overnight. Getting the forecast early in the day helps the teams decide how and where to attack the fires.

"Winds, relative humidity, heat (daytime temperatures) are a big part of how we look at that," adds Phelps.

It's a long equation of variables, adding up to whether they use tools other than ground crews, like helicopters or aerial tankers dropping water. It's a dangerous job, especially if blowing embers cross the fire lines. New fires can start and spread quickly. Also, smoke can get very thick if winds are light and there's a temperature inversion.

"Firefighter awareness is extremely important for those folks who are out there," Phelps emphasizes. "And to know that they have a good escape route."

Cooler nighttime temperatures and some afternoons with higher humidities have helped contain many of the fires, but it's still a challenge.

"All the ones that start we have to babysit because of shifting winds," says Phelps.

Dealing with the weather is tough enough, so he encourages everyone not to be careless. Something seemingly harmless like parking your car on your lawn can burn the dry ground in no time.

"Be careful with anything that could ignite a fire," urges Phelps.

Also, obey burn bans. The Tennessee Division of Forestry is not issuing permits until the situation improves.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.


PREVIOUS STORY: Besides the big picture of the drought and very dry ground, crews trying to control wildfires are charged with keeping up with daily forecasts and short-term weather changes.

They have to adjust to wind shifts, wind speeds, and changes in humidity, all have an impact on the fires and those battling the growing number of fires in the Tennessee Valley.

Additionally, winds are sweeping the smoke from the fires into valleys, and even as far south as Atlanta.

Channel 3 meteorologist Nick Austin will have more on these challenges tonight on Channel 3 Eyewitness News.

READ MORE | Channel 3 Storm Alert Weather

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