Wildfire Season approaches during park closure

Firefighters warn people to burn with caution during the fall season. (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Firefighters in the Smokies are urging people to use caution while burning outdoors this fall season, especially not burning illegally in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

More than 300 people who work in the national park are on furlough and fewer rangers are patrolling the area. Rangers say if there were a fire they would respond, but response time would be slower.

Firefighters say it takes only a matter of minutes for a small fire to get really big. That's why they're watching how people are burning inside and outside the national park. This fire prevention week firefighters say they need people to help keep the entire community safe.

"When that fall foliage falls from the trees, and it just adds fuel to the ground and we just have to be very careful with our campfires and any outdoor burning," said Greg miller, Chief of Gatlinburg Fire Department. "A forest fire ember can blow up to a mile away. So we want people to be very cautious about that."

Firefighters say Sevier County has averaged 1 major wildfire each year over the past 5 years. They say that's a statistic they'd like to see broken this year.

Chief Tony Watson in Pigeon Forge says his crews do watch campsites near the national park. He says his firefighters will respond to keep the community safe, but wonders what help the national park fire rangers can provide with the closure.

"They'll get out there and assist us, or even take over. We don't know what that status would be. We've not been through that so that would be a concern about how would that be affected," said Watson. "But don't burn with out that permit."

Firefighters say you wouldn't burn near a building or a wooded area. They also suggest you clean out your gutters of trash.

A burn permit is required starting next week.

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