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Crews battle forest fire for fourth day

By Megan Gorey
Published On: Nov 19 2012 04:56:53 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 19 2012 04:16:06 PM CST

Crews continue to battle a forest fire that has burned more than 2,000 acres of land so far. View images: Hawkins County fire

HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. -

Crews continue to battle a forest fire that has burned more than 2,000 acres of land so far. View images: Hawkins County fire

More than half a dozen fire crews have spent the past four days battling a forest fire in Hawkins County. The US Forest Service estimates the fire burned about 200 acres of Short Mountain on Saturday and about 1,800 acres on Sunday. At one point, there were about 60 firefighters working in the area.

The fire has come within about 100 feet from some homes. "Our primary concern is structures," said Capt. Andrew Bean with the Lakeview Volunteer Fire Department. "We've had several departments in here to protect buildings." Bean said that includes doing controlled burns around the properties.

Authorities believe the fire started around 1:30 p.m. Thursday near Rough House Hollow Road near Rogersville. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Bean said they do not suspect arson. "According to witnesses, it was probably an electric fence or a hunter. We're not really sure," he told us Monday.

The hot spots could continue to burn throughout the week or until it rains. Bean explained that the terrain is making it hard for crews to get into the woods to create fire lines. "We can't get dozers in there because of the rock bluffs, so we can't make a good line," he said.

To complicate the situation, the wind and dry leaves are fueling the fire. "The leaves are piled up two feet deep, so that's why it's burning like this," Bean explained. "This is good from a forestry perspective, because it's burning the undergrowth and the leaves. And it's not really hurting the timber because its not burning rapidly."

But the smoldering is making lots of smoke. "It's like a big cloud. You can't see because of the smoke," said Donnie Coleman, a Hawkins County resident.

Not only is the smoke making it difficult for Coleman to see, it's also making it difficult for him to breathe. "It's hurting me," he said. "It's all I can do to get a breath in."

Coleman says that's why he and his wife are heading to Pikeville, Kentucky to visit family until the smoke clears. "I don't know if I can stand it here with the way the smoke is now," he said.

So far no one has been evacuated, no one has been hurt and there hasn't been any property damage reported.