Brush fire menaces homes and businesses in Walker County [photos, video]

Brush fire menaces homes and businesses in Walker County [photos, video]

February 17th, 2017 by David Cobb and Emmett Gienapp in Local Regional News

This story is developing.

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Flames 10 to 15 feet high devoured brush and trees on a ridge alongside Battlefield Parkway near McFarland Avenue in what Walker County Emergency Services are calling an active brush fire.

An official from the Rossville Fire Department said the fire was likely caused by sparks from a passing train that ignited dry brush. 

Officials expect to begin dropping water from the air on the blaze, which has spread thick, black smoke over the area. There is a 50 percent change of rain tomorrow, according to current forecasts. 

Walker County Emergency Services Assistant Chief Marlin Thompson said one family was evacuated because their house at the top of the ridge was directly in the fire line on Chris Lane, but they have since been allowed to return. 

He said the signs are consistent with a railroad fire because they spent part of the afternoon "chasing other fires" to the north along Missionary Ridge and the rail line. 

No injuries have been reported in the fire and the only damage to the home on Chris Lane is apparently some smoke in the house. 

Dozers are on scene to clear lines and firefighters expect the flames to work their way north, but no other structures are in immediate danger. 

First responders from Company 8, Rossville Fire and Catoosa County Fire are working to control the blaze.

Residents of South Mission Ridge Drive have been told that fire lines are established on the slope below their homes. Those fire lines are expected to keep the flames from creeping further up the bluff toward homes.

Pastor Kevin Weaver of Memorial Baptist Tabernacle stood near his church with his eye on several homes along the tree line. Homeowners were told by firefighters to watch for flames and call 911 if they feel any danger. 

"They told us they were making a line up the ridge," Weaver said. "It's very scary"

At the church, bits and ash fell from the sky and the air was thick with smoke. 

"I'm just worried for our house and our church and all of our stuff," Weaver said. "We don't know what's going to happen."

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Bobby Blevins, owner of B&B Auto Service, which sits below the ridge where the fire is blazing, said he climbed the ridge shortly after 3 p.m. to ensure the rising smoke wasn't coming near his shop. 

"We went up there and were watching it, but the wind was blowing that way," he said while gesturing away from the shop. 

A railroad track sits on the ridge behind his shop, and Blevins said that firefighters were working to make sure flames didn't jump the track. 

Blevins agreed with firefighters' assessment that a train may have been the cause of the fire. He believes the train in question passed through the area about 30 minutes before smoke started to rise. 

He said another fire was started along the ridge several years ago when sparks from a wheel caused the underbrush to catch fire. 

This is a developing story. Stay with the Times Free Press for details.