Carter County

Local park rangers say fire in Pigeon Forge can happen anywhere

CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - Hundreds of acres of forest were destroyed by flames after two fires spark in northeast Tennessee just this last week. Click here to read more about those fires.

We checked with Roan Mountain State Park officials to see if a fire like this could happen here, and the simple answer is yes.

Park rangers say they try to work ahead of the fire by evacuating high-priority areas, like cabins and homes, so the fire won't jump rooftop to rooftop.

It's a startling scene -- a blaze consuming a mountainside dangerously close to the heart of Pigeon Forge.

A fire like this can happen anywhere. Roan Mountain Park manager Jacob Young says all it takes is a spark. "You can have fires around the cabins and on your campsites so it is a possibility," he said.

We learned in case a fire does happen, it's easier to control inside the 2,000-acre state park simply because of roadways. "It's very fragmented and when you have fragmented habitat like that, if you get a fire you can drive in front of it and cut it off easily," added Young.

But large natural areas, like some of the mountains surrounding Roan Mountain State Park, have limited access; that can make it challenging to stop the fire from spreading, as well as requiring tireless work on the ground. "You have to cut vegetation, you may have to take a bulldozer and push out a fire line to get the fire stopped," said Young.

It's the wind that can make a fire hard to control before it even sparks. We learned even though there has been rain and snow during the winter, all it takes is a little wind to dry leaves out adding fuel to a fire. "When a spark gets going, the wind is providing the oxygen, the oxygen is feeding the flames, and it just builds it up and pushes it. It moves it really quick," said Young.

That's why park officials warn everyone to be especially careful before setting a campfire.

We also learned rangers patrol the campgrounds and cabins when there is a higher risk of fire danger.

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