Prescribed burns the source of downtown Chattanooga haze

Prescribed burns the source of downtown Chattanooga haze

February 28th, 2014 by Casey Phillips and Louie Brogdon in Local - Breaking News

The thick haze in downtown Chattanooga is coming from nearby counties, according to Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau Director Bob Colby. According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, two prescribed burns are likely the source of the smoke in downtown Chattanooga.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

The thick haze in downtown Chattanooga is coming from nearby counties, according to the Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau and Georgia Forestry Commission.

According to the GFC, two prescribed burns in North Georgia are likely the source of the smoke in downtown Chattanooga. The larger of the two fires is a 3,800-acre burn between 1,700 and 3,200 feet of elevation in Noontootla, Ga., southeast of McCaysville, Ga. A second, smaller fire in Sugar Valley, Ga., near Ringgold, Ga., is about 1,000 acres between 900 and 1,200 feet, according to the GFC.

Pollution Control Bureau Director Bob Colby said the Tennessee Division of Forestry also was burning 170 acres of forest floor in Sequatchie County this afternoon. And control burns started in Marion County on Thursday.

"This is an ideal time of year of foresters to burn off all the fuel on the forest floor," Colby said. "Hopefully when it gets a little clearer and less windy we won't be impacted by burns happening outside Hamilton County."

There are currently eight prescribed, or controlled, burns in East Tennessee, including one near Etowah and one southeast of Tellico Plains, according to meteorologist Terry Getz with the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn.

Weather conditions are causing the haze to concentrate in the area instead of dispersing, Getz said.

"When you have warmer air off the surface and light winds when they're doing these burns, the smoke from the fires doesn't get as dispersed," he said. "It seems like there are light winds below 5,000 feet, and that smoke may be drifting over by Chattanooga and getting trapped. The haze is probably smoke, pollutants from the prescribed burns from the controlled burns."

As of 4:45 p.m., the airport was still reporting 10 miles of visibility.

Getz says the National Weather Service hasn't received notifications of wildfires in the area.