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Rain helps firefighters battle blaze on Buffalo Mountain

Gregg Powers • May 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Fires continued to burn throughout Wednesday night along the mountain range off Dry Creek Road. Lee Talbert photo. Lee Talbert photo.


JOHNSON CITY — Firefighters continued to battle a blaze on Buffalo Mountain Thursday after the wind shifted and the fire spread Wednesday night from the national forest into a city park.

“The wind kicked up (Wednesday) night, and we lost all of our fire lines with the wind shift,” Guy Street, incident commander for the U.S. Forest Service, said Thursday morning. “That caused us to have to back off. Now we have to scout the lines and look at where the fire is to see what we can do with it today.”

The fire began Wednesday morning and sent smoke billowing from the mountain. By evening, the smoke blanketed much of Johnson City in a thick haze. Flames on the mountain were visible in the darkness from residential areas Wednesday night, and smoke hung in the southern end of the city Thursday.

Forest Service officials expected more aid, including support from the air, to battle the blaze this morning. A helicopter was seen flying above the mountain throughout the afternoon Thursday.

But in addition to the help from man, Mother Nature was providing aid in the form of rain late Thursday afternoon and evening. The rain was expected to continue until past midnight, according to the National Weather Service.

The NWS said there was a 30 percent chance of more rain this morning and later tonight.

Street said the fire involved about 100 acres. Several locations on the mountain could be seen burning from a subdivision off Lone Oak Road Thursday, although officials said residential areas were not threatened by the blaze.

Firefighters had the fire under control at one point Wednesday, but it apparently increased in intensity late in the evening, prompting the need for local fire departments to respond.

Firefighters from the Forest Service and the Tennessee Department of Forestry spent Wednesday and Thursday battling the fire, which started about 11 a.m. Wednesday off Lone Oak Trail near Dry Creek Road.

Johnson City firefighters were dispatched to Buffalo Mountain Park about 11 a.m. Thursday as the blaze inched toward the park. The concerns for the city included the park property as well as the city’s communications towers, which are visible above the tree line on the mountain.

Assistant Fire Chief Roger Teinert said the fire did get into the park area but didn’t cause a lot of damage.

“It was mostly just the ground cover, the leaves and some stumps,” he said.

By late evening, Teinert said the fire was contained, and he didn’t expect any additional fire spread.

NET News Service staff writer Becky Campbell contributed to this report.

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