As the wild fires continue to decimate eastern Tennessee, fire departments here in southern Illinois are preparing to assist if called upon.
Scott Crist, Fire Specialist with the Shawnee National Forest, says that the forest service is trying to free up equipment, including a fire truck, to send to Tennessee if their forest fire response service is needed.
Crist says that when the call comes in, they will determine how much time they have to get there. He says that sometimes they are on the road within two hours and sometimes they can wait until the next morning. It depends on the distance and severity of the fire.
With the Shawnee National Forest in our backyards in southern Illinois, it raises the question of what is the possibility of a wild fire happening here?
Crist says that many of the vegetation in the Shawnee is of the Appalachia variety, making it a similar fire environment to that of the Smokey Mountains. “The difference would be they [Tennessee] have a lot more undeveloped wild land.” The wild land areas in southern Illinois are close enough to developed areas that fire crews would be able to respond fairly quickly if a fire was to break out.
Currently, the fire danger is low due to the rain southern Illinois received in the past couple of days. The region was seeing drought-like conditions. Rains did not make up for all of the dry conditions, but it did help quite a bit.
Crist says that the Forestry Service analyses fire danger on a daily basis, so conditions could be dramatically different in just a few days.
“We do not consider the Shawnee at high risk for fire at this point,” he says.
Eastern Tennessee is expected to receive rain tonight which would ease extreme drought conditions and slow the fires.