Wildfires in Tennessee have covered much of the eastern area of the state in an ominous cloud of smoke. Currently, there are more than 60 active wildfires burning in the region. Firefighters have managed to contain approximately 70 percent of the fires, covering an estimated 17,000 acres of land. Southeastern Tennessee has been without a drop of rain for almost two months.
— Clarksville Now (@clarksvillenow) November 11, 2016
Though drought conditions are extreme in the state, the suspected cause of the spontaneous outbreak of wildfires is arson. ABC News reports that “at least seven people have been arrested” in Tennessee alone over the last 20 days for purposely setting the blazes. The motive of the arsonists is still a mystery, but their charges will not be taken lightly in a court of law. Tennessee has already suffered much hardship due to the fires, and many repercussions are still yet to come. Residents anticipate a sizable effect on the area’s economy, wildlife, and overall health is still lurking in the shadows of the region’s smoky veil.
Many of Tennessee’s wildfires concentrate around the southeast region’s crossover city, Chattanooga. Chattanooga has felt the effects of residual smoke particularly hard. There have been more than 200 cases of hospitalization due to respiratory distress, and there is no positive end in sight. Tennessee is not expected to see any significant amount of rain until after the New Year. Though Governor Bill Haslam has ordered a burn ban for much of the state, the fires continue to spread and spawn with little time for relief from the haze.
When the weather in Chattanooga is “smoke” pic.twitter.com/IDvNaLo65U
— houston (@IamHoustonWood) November 18, 2016
Long term, the city can expect a rise in chronic respiratory diagnosis. The elderly and very young face the highest risk of residual respiratory damage. Extended exposure to the carcinogenic fumes will cause the area to spike in cardiac illness as well. While this may be suitable for hospital “business,” the state’s Tenn Care fund will likely pay the bulk of the price.
Economically, wildfires in Tennessee will have some negative and positive effects. Positively speaking, there are not many unemployed Firefighters in the state currently. Emergency teams have been working overtime to contain and calm the calamity. The lingering smoke and stigma that follow the many wildfires will be a much more difficult hurdle to clear regarding the area’s tourism revenue. Until the air clears and air quality alerts fall, many residents have been urged to remain indoors.
There is no time for shopping, and many local businesses are feeling the desertion in their pockets. Chattanooga, Knoxville, and the Tri-Cities area have been battling the effects of the wildfires for several weeks. The overall cost of the containment operation is astronomical. The estimated cost of the total damage has reached several millions of dollars and will continue to rise. In addition to the fiscal price of the Tennessee wildfires, the state has paid an immeasurable human cost.
Wildfires also have a heavy impact on the local wildlife. Over 17,000 acres of land have been demolished per the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Thousands of wild animals will feel the effects of this awful crime. Though it is not likely that the wildfires will cause any irreversible damage to Tennessee’s native wildlife, some affected areas of the state will never be the same. Currently, the fires are threatening parts of the Cherokee National Forest, which harbors a large piece of the historic Trail of Tears.
[Featured Image by John Bazemore/AP Images]