Forestry officials said Monday smoke visible in Southeast Tennessee is coming from several fires around the region as the South continues grappling with a historic drought.
"There are numerous fires in surrounding counties and in North Carolina and North Georgia that are putting up smoke," Cherokee National Forest spokesman Terry McDonald said in a statement. "Valley areas are reporting seeing and smelling smoke — the combination of all the fires is where the smoke is coming from."
A fire on the southeast side of Chilhowee Mountain in the Rattlesnake Hollow area of Polk County, Tenn., initially detected last Sunday, burned Monday in a 200-acre controlled area, according to the forest service.
Another fire in the Wolf Creek area of the Cherokee National Forest started Saturday about two miles northwest of Turtletown and had burned about 115 acres by Monday morning.
"Because of steep terrain, extremely dry conditions and thick vegetation, firefighters are working to keep the fire within a control perimeter of approximately 400 acres using natural features, roads and wirelines," a news release from the forest service said.
A helicopter, plane, four fire engines and 80 firefighters or support personnel fought the Wolf Creek fire, while 13 firefighters and support personnel were assigned to the Chilhowee Mountain fire.
The use of fire outside of "developed recreation areas" is prohibited in the Cherokee National Forest until further notice, according to the forest service.
The area of the Rattlesnake Hollow fire remains closed, as does Road 23A in the area.
Motorists are encouraged to use "extreme care" when approaching the perimeter of the fire along McFarland Road, according to the Forest Service.
"There will be smoke and fire crews and equipment in the area," the news release said. "Do not stop near the fire."
In North Georgia, a fire on Rocky Face Mountain near Dalton grew to roughly 325 acres by Sunday night, the Georgia Forestry Commission said. Two homes have been threatened by the blaze, officials said.
Recreational users have been asked to stay away from the area.
"With the current exceptional drought and extreme fire danger, large wildfires are burning throughout North Georgia," according to the forestry commission. "A smoky haze, especially in the mornings, can be expected off and on until significant rainfall is received.
"Residents should not be concerned simply by the smell of or the sight of light smoke, as these conditions will most likely happen regularly."
The Associated Press reported that, if the drought persists, authorities said it could lead to water-use restrictions similar to those now common out west.
Forecasters have termed much of the area as being in an "exceptional drought."
Contact staff writer David Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249.