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Forecast fuels flames for dozens of East TN wildfires

7:48 PM, Nov 26, 2012   |    comments
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On Monday weather conditions continued to worsen for forestry crews fighting wildfires throughout East Tennessee.  A press release from the forestry service indicated seven new wildfires ignited in the area on Sunday.  That brings the total number of wildfires in East Tennessee to 62 since November 10.

Forestry officials suspect arson caused many of the fires.  However, Mother Nature continues to stoke the flames with weather conditions just right for wildfires.

"Rainfall for this time of year, in the month of November, we're in a deficit of about two and a half inches," said Anthony Cavallucci with the National Weather Service in Morristown.  "It has definitely been very dry this month compared to the average, but for the entire year we are still four inches above normal precipitation amounts."

The lack of recent rainfall is just one of several factors that have made conditions in the area ideal for wildfires.

"The folks who are fighting the fire, we've been letting them know about the weather that may affect those fires such as wind speed, wind direction, and relative humidity," said Cavallucci.  "This time of year you get cold dense air that makes the dew point very low.  In the afternoon we have had dew points in the single digits.  Anyone can just feel it because your skin will get really dry in these conditions."

The combinations of low humidity and gusty winds over the last few weeks have fanned the flames with no considerable relief in sight.  Some of the fires have been intense enough to register on NWS maps.

"We have seen some satellite imagery that showed some hot spots in southern Scott County and visible satellite was able to see some smoke plumes," said Cavallucci.

Cavallucci said the one thing fire crews have going for them from a weather-standpoint are the colder temperatures.

"Temperatures have been cool. Fires don't like cold weather. They like warm temperatures and sunlight if they can get it," he said.

There is a chance for some rain Tuesday, but afterwards the region hits another dry patch.

"Hopefully this rain will help some, but it is not going to saturate the ground like the firefighters probably want.  They would probably like a good half-inch of rain and that seems unlikely.  After this front moves through Tuesday it is going to be dry the rest of the week, but winds will be tranquil."

A ban on burning debris remains in effect for almost all of East Tennessee.  Up to date information on when and where free burn permits may be obtained can be found at burnsafetn.org.

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