View from above: Wildfires spill smoke across East Tennessee


DEL RIO, Tenn (WATE) – Crews continue to fight fires near Del Rio in Cocke County. Two new fires were set Wednesday near the original one on Neddy Mountain, making it harder for crews to contain. More than 1,000 acres have already been torched.

U.S. Highway 25/70 between Bluff Road and State Route 340 reopened for a time Thursday morning, but was closed again by Thursday afternoon while crews do what they call a burn out.

The closures have affected businesses in the area. Some owners say business picks up when the road reopens, but for the most part, the smoke and fires are keeping customers away.

Crews say a fire crossed containment lines Thursday night, but it was quickly contained. Wildlife Mitigation Specialist Cliff Frazier says there are two crews working the mountain – one local and one from Alaska. He says the main goal right now is just to monitor the fire and keep it contained. As of Thursday afternoon, no homes or businesses are in danger.

The fire is 85 percent contained at this point.

WATE 6 On Your Side Storm Team Meteorologist Ryan Beesley toured the fire from the air in a helicopter operated by Scenic Helicopter Tours. He said they had to be extra careful on where they flew due to several flight restrictions.

“It’s to make sure the people that are fighting the fires, you know, they are using planes and helicopters dipping down into the lakes here and they have a safe low traffic environment,” said pilot Graham Ritter.

The good news about these fires is they seem to be staying close to the ground.

“It’s not really burning up the trees. It’s mainly hitting that underbrush of everything. It’s kind of just creeping along, which is good because if it was catching the tree canopies where there’s a lot more air around it, it’s a lot more combustible,” said Ritter.

On the flight back in, the smoke was much more intense because the Walland wildfire was shooting smoke high into the sky. Ritter also mentioned that due to the smoke, they are seeing a decrease in tourists and business.

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