Local “tactical strike team” helps battle East Tennessee wildfires


Local “tactical strike team” helps battle East Tennessee wildfires

By DESSISLAVA YANKOVA

Four Brentwood firefighters with special training and equipment are helping battle wildfires in East Tennessee this week.

The firefighters left for Cookeville on Sunday, Nov. 13 and will be dispatched as one of many Tactical Strike teams in East Tennessee. They are expected back by Friday, Brentwood Fire and Rescue Chief Brian Goss said at the City Commission meeting Monday night.

“I spoke with them shortly before the meeting,” Goss said. “They were working on the Mowbray Mountain fire, which is in Hamilton County. The fire was 70 percent contained on Monday and it’s still at 70 percent contained (Tuesday), having consumed about 800 acres.”

The Brentwood firefighters are also helping on Lookout Mountain and Flippers Bend, also in Hamilton County. Several homes were lost in East Tennessee on Monday. Evacuations have been going on for about two weeks in different areas there. No fatalities have been reported, Goss said.

On Monday, Gov. Bill Haslam issued a proclamation declaring a regional ban on burning in 51 counties in response to the ongoing drought and destructive wildfires throughout Middle and East Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

16K acres affected in Tennessee          

wildfire east tennessee
Brentwood firefighters are on tactical teams fighting wildfires in Hamilton County. // BRENTWOOD FIRE AND RESCUE

As of Sunday in Tennessee, there were 74 active fires that had burned 13,200 acres. Monday afternoon, there were 67 active fires that had consumed an additional 3,000 acres, bringing the total affected area to more than 16,000 acres. As of Tuesday, more than twice of that area was burned in North and South Carolina, where at least 33,000 acres are affected, Goss said.

“It’s a significant event,” Goss said.

Brentwood residents should not worry about resources.

“We sent with them one of our brush vehicles but we have a backup vehicle that we use, so we’ll still be able to handle any fires that may occur within the city,” Goss said.

wildfire east tennessee
Dry conditions all over the state have led to open burning restrictions, including local bans. // BRENTWOOD FIRE AND RESCUE

Two weeks ago Brentwood along with Williamson County imposed a burn ban. On Monday morning, officials extended the ban to developers.

For the past several weeks, Tennessee has been under state of emergency due to the numerous fires and worsening drought conditions.

“It’s just too tinder and dry out there,” Goss said. “Although we don’t normally regulate small, backyard fire pits or cooking fires, we’re asking all residents to refrain from any open burning whatsoever. Between the breezes, the dryness and the leaves that are falling, it makes it very possible to create a dangerous situation. There’s too much of a risk.”

wildfire east tennessee
Four Brentwood firefighters had the proper training and equipment to join the fight against forest fires in East Tennessee. // BRENTWOOD FIRE AND RESCUE

Smoke spreading

People as far as Memphis have reported visible smoke because it has reached the upper atmosphere now, Goss said.

“And some of the haze you’re seeing around here, people think our woods are on fire but it’s actually smoke from the Chattanooga fire,” Goss said.

Goss first received a call from Tennessee Emergency Management Agency officials on Nov. 10, requesting that the county organize a Tactical Strike Team. Other county departments, however, either didn’t have the training or the equipment.

“We were being put on standby,” Goss said. “Then Saturday evening we received a call asking if we were ready to deploy. By that time, it had become a federally designated disaster area. They required a certain level of training. As it came to be, Brentwood firefighters were the only ones in our region that had that training.”
Brentwood Mayor Regina Smithson said not only people and their homes are affected.

“Think about the wildlife in addition to the forests,” Smithson said. “That’s a sad situation.”

On Monday, Brentwood officials activated the city’s Emergency Management Center to Level 4 Monitoring, which has also been the same for Williamson County. Level 4 Monitoring is used when there is a potential for an emergency developing or worsening.

The City of Brentwood will receive reimbursements for sharing its resources. The names of the local firefighters are not disclosed for security reasons, Goss said.

wildfire east tennessee
Brentwood firefighters have been working on Lookout Mountain and in other locations in Hamilton County. // BRENTWOOD FIRE AND RESCUE

To learn more, visit the Tennessee Department of Agriculture at:

tn.gov/agriculture

To learn more about the latest wildfires and burn bans, visit:

burnsafetn.org

More information is also available on the TEMA website at:

tnema.org/ema/current/

Reach Dessislava Yankova at 865.384.1973. Follow her on twitter @desspor.

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