Forestry Dept. holds local seminar on
proper planning for fire areas
The Department of Forestry picked Sevier County as one of its ten sites for its “Living on the Edge- Addressing Wildfire Protection” seminar. Thirty-three locals made it to the Governor’s Inn Thursday for the daylong session and discussion on planning for fire protection. Residents involved with fire protection, homeowners associations, landscape architects and developers attended the meeting. Sevier County was at the top of the department’s list for the seminar on wildland-urban interface planning.
Department of Forestry manger for the area Nathan Waters was quick to assess the need for the program and more like it. “Just look out the door,” said Waters. “There is more and more development going on along those mountains, rental cabins and complexes that weren’t there a few years ago and home owners, contractors and county officials need to understand some basics on safe planning to minimize the impact of wildfire up there.”
The development on the mountains, the lowering of the local water table with the increase in well numbers and the natural progression of the Smokies is reason for concern according to the seminar. “It took every unit in this area to fight the Bluff Mountain fire a few years ago, with the development we have up there now, it could easily be worse and more than could be handled locally,” Waters told the Herald.
The area has a native species of table mountain pine that indicates the area has historically been prone to fires for a long period of time. “Those trees reproduce by fire. Where they are is an indication that this area had wildfires from lightning before man ever got involved here.”
Marian Oates, President of the Upper Bluff Mountain Association was one of the residents who attended the session. She was accompanied by an association member and resident John Pollack and by Walden’s Creek Volunteer Fireman Todd Kelly. “We’re learning a lot about what we can do to make more fire defensible spaces,” said Oates.
Several attendees and staff expressed concern that no county officials were present for the meeting. The county has no building codes or zoning to help regulate development in the wildland-urban meeting points that can become the heart of news stories during a wild fire. “I don’t want to see them hand wringing and looking concerned when something happened if they just ignore this problem and the education available,” said one attendee during a break.
The Living on the Edge program has a second component that is shorter in nature and designed for individual home owners. It will be offered in some key places by the Smoky Mountain Resource and Development District, but any community that wishes to hold a local seminar for residents can contact the department to have the presentation made. Contact ITM toll-free at 866-463-6486 or www.itm-info.com.