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Interpretive park ranger Larry Beane talks to a homeowner near an area of burned woods Tuesday, October 25, 2015. A fire that started over the weekend tore through around 325 acres in Little River Canyon in Alabama.

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Little River Canyon fire contained; Cherokee National Forest fire growing

Fire officials are trying to gain ground on forest fires fueled by dry conditions across the tri-state region.

The fire that raged in the Little River Canyon area of Lookout Mountain east of Fort Payne, Ala., over the weekend has been contained with no damage to homes or other facilities, interpretive park ranger Larry Beane said.

"It is pretty much contained," Beane said Tuesday. "There's going to be smoldering stumps for a while."

North Alabama remains in the grip of record-breaking drought, and so does most of Hamilton County and the rest of the Chattanooga region in Tennessee and Georgia, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Beane said the acreage already burned — about 325 acres — will "smolder until we get rain."

In Polk County, Tenn., U.S. Forest Service spokesman Terry McDonald said the area of the Cherokee National Forest burning on the southeastern slopes of Chilhowee Mountain grew from 55 acres to more than 100 acres by Tuesday, and it's still growing.

The fire is visible from some parts of the Archville community and areas around Parksville Lake, McDonald said.

Firefighters cannot construct fire lines adjacent to the blaze, and "because of the location of the fire in steep, rocky inaccessible terrain, fire growth is anticipated to increase," he said.

"Crews are taking suppression actions indirectly by constructing hand lines and using creeks and trails in the area to halt the spread of the fire," he said. Fire crews also will burn out vegetation along the lines to secure those lines from the main fire.

McDonald said a helicopter, an airplane, two fire engines and 50 firefighters and support personnel were on the scene Tuesday fighting the blaze.

"People are going to see smoke for a few days yet," he said.

Meanwhile, trails on Chilhowee Mountain in the Rock Creek Gorge area are closed to the public. Signs have been erected to notify visitors.

In Georgia, dispatchers in Dade County said a brush fire continues to burn in the area of Fox Trail Road and Scenic Highway. The blaze was handled Tuesday by a single fire unit, and officials said they hoped winds would not increase.

In October so far, Dade has had 12 fires that burned about 179 acres, said Wendy Burnett, Georgia Forestry Commission communications director.

Crews this month have been battling other fires in every North Georgia county in the Chattanooga region north of Atlanta and west of Union County, she said.

For the month so far, Catoosa has had five fires that burned more than seven acres; Chattooga and Fannin each had three fires burning less than an acre; Floyd had eight fires that burned 18 acres; Gordon had six that burned 113 acres; Murray had six that burned less than seven acres; Whitfield had seven fires that burned 19 acres; and Walker had 14 fires that burned a total of 246 acres, Burnett said. Walker's fire on Strawberry Mountain continues to burn.

A little farther south in Cherokee County, Ga., firefighters are battling a new blaze sparked Tuesday. Officials don't know how much acreage is involved yet, she said. A fire in Gordon County has been contained but is still smoldering, she said.

The National Weather Service calls for only a chance of rain tonight and Thursday night and otherwise dry conditions.

 

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

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