Firefighters Working to Contain Wildfire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Andrii Chagovets/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Nov. 6, a wildfire broke out along the western boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fire crews responded to the 30-acre blaze and attempted to contain it.

The fire was only 5 acres when it was reported around 11:30 am. It was located along Highway 129 near mile marker 4.5, according to a report from National Parks Traveler. A team of around 40 fire personnel worked with hand crews, engine crews, and air support. The fire is completely inside the National Park, and currently, there is no containment progress.

Tennessee Highway Patrol is managing traffic along Highway 129, which remains open. Parson Branch Road is closed, as the fire is about 2 miles west of the Parson Branch Road exit near Chilhowee Lake. It is located in the Cattail Branch and not near any hiking trails, according to the report.

New Study Warns of Hail Events Following Western Wildfires

A new study by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory claims that hail can follow wildfires in the American west. The research teams observed weather events over a 10-year period. They found that heavy precipitation rates in the US increased by 38% during those periods. Additionally, severe hail events increased by 34%. How are these events related, wildfires and hail?

According to the study, the intense wildfire season coincided with the severe weather season. Apparently, wildfires in the West and severe weather in the Plains don’t usually overlap. Except, in recent years they have. This produces massive hail storms.

The study states that smoke particles called aerosols are released into the air by wildfires. They burn 10 to 40 times hotter than usual and release ash, smoke, and these particles. The aerosols provide just enough surface area for water vapor to form hailstones, according to researchers.

Over 10 years, the researchers studied the effects of wildfires in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Dakotas. The study highlighted the 2018 wildfire season, though, which included fires like the Carr Fire and the Mendocino Complex Fire that tore through Oregon and California. During these fires, in the eastern Rockies and Great Plains, severe thunderstorms raged.

How Fire and Hail are Connected In the West

Jiwen Fan, an Earth scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said that climate change has definitely affected the way wildfires and storms behave. “As we look at the future climate,” said Fan, “we know wildfires will increase, particularly in the West. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that these co-occurring events would happen more frequently, and the impact of western wildfires on central storms may become increasingly important in the future.”

Fan explained further, “The more we understand about the contributing factors behind storms like this, which cause massive property loss, the better we’ll be able to prepare for them.”