FRANKLIN CO. - If the first thing you noticed when walking outside was the smell of smoke Thursday, you're not alone. Wildfires burning in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee are to blame.
The latest fire detection information (above) shows the hot spots to our west and southwest, not too far away, in eastern parts of Tennessee and Kentucky, where conditions are very dry. An expanding area of drought covers much of the SE US.
The same weather pattern that warmed us back up into the 80s with record highs is also sending smoke and fine ash from these fires in our direction from the west and southwest.
As a cold front nears late Thursday, breezes will continue out of the west, so the smoke will continue to be an issue until the front passes us to the south late Thursday night into early Friday morning.
In Alabama and Georgia the situation is even worse. The latest drought monitor (shown below) shows exteme to exceptional drought over much of the area, with no rain in sight for at least a week.
For Virginia, high pressure will set up again next week, however, so the smoke may return at some point.
The weather pattern is a dry one for our area as well, and fire concerns will grow into November without signigicant moisture.
Only a few showers are expected Thursday evening along the cold front.
Windy weather behind the front Friday will enhance fire risk in our region.
In Virginia, the fall fire season started October 15 and continues through November. The Virginia Department of Forestry offers these tips to reduce the risk of fire:
If you have to burn, take precautions before igniting a fire. Precautions include:
- clearing the burn spot and surrounding area down to mineral soil;
- keeping the burn pile small;
- having tools like a shovel or a rake on hand;
- ensuring a charged water hose or other water source is at the ready;
- having a working cell phone with you so that you can call 911 as soon as the fire escapes your control, and remaining with the fire until it’s completely out.
- You must also check the weather conditions in your area before you start to burn. If it’s been several days since it’s rained, humidity levels are low and the winds are higher than 10 miles per hour, wait until conditions improve; otherwise, it’s quite likely your fire will become a wildfire.
If a fire does escape a person’s control or is left unattended, that person is financially liable for the cost of suppressing the wildfire as well as any damage that occurs as a result. Depending on the size and complexity of the wildfire, suppression costs alone could range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Add to that the cost of burning down your neighbor’s home or barn, and you could be looking at millions of dollars.