West Knox Smoke From Distant Wildfires

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West Knox Smoke From Distant Wildfires
Jessa Goddard

Knoxville (WVLT) - Look out your window and you can see it. Walk out your door and you can smell it. But, where's the fire?

Clouds of smoke in West Knox County, but where are they coming from?

We just happened to be at the Knox County Health Department working on a separate assignment when the calls started pouring in. People reporting smoke, convinced a fire must be somewhere near. But they were wrong, hundreds of miles off the mark.

Just after 12:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon the calls started coming in. Where's the source of the smoke in the air? Did these dry conditions spark another wildfire? Did a prescribed burn get out of control?

"We've heard it's a prescribed burn and we know it's not that, because we did not permit one of those in this area,” says Knox County Environmental Program Manager Steve McDaniel.

Health officials say they'd never permit a prescribed burn in such dry conditions. That would be playing with fire. "We don't want a chance for a forest fire would be higher when it's dry like this. So, that's not the situation here,” McDaniel says.

But it wasn't just smoke and mirrors, so what was it and where was it coming from?

"We've sent investigators out to two different locations looking for this,” McDaniel says.

Two crews of inspectors, one to Watt Road, the other to Everett Road.

WVLT Volunteer TV sent crews, too. But after hours of searching, nothing.

That's when health officials grew suspicious, and contacted the national weather service.

It appears we were all looking for the source of the smoke in the wrong county, the wrong state, for that matter.

The NWS says the haze is the result of smoke from Georgia fires spreading northward into portions of East Tennessee.

A ridge of high pressure that's been over the area for several days is shifting east and that, combined with dry air, created the haze.

Knox County Air Quality inspectors found no signs of open burning.

But, the fire in the Smoky Mountain National Park and the one at the Scottish Inn in Gatlinburg could have contributed to the haze we're seeing Thursday.

Volunteer TV’s Whitney Daniel spoke with folks who've been speculating all day about the cause of this dirty air.

"Everybody knows East Tennessee has one of the worst air quality problems in the entire country, and this only exaggerates it.” says Gayla Cutler.

Matthew Green says he originally, "I thought there was a fog but it's so very hot today, it's kinda weird to have a fog when it's so warm and so humid I thought it was kind of strange."

"It's hard to breathe, you can't see as far over the trees and humidity seems terrible,” says Aaron Dickens.

One couple even got it correct, Craig and Laurie Stapleton say "I'm just guessing it's the fires in Georgia, but I don’t know... I also heard there's one in Abram's Falls, so I don’t know if we're getting a meeting of the two of them and the worst of both worlds, or what exactly."

And for at least one person, no matter what it is, it’s disrupting his view. "It usually is clear,” says John Pressley. “You can see the mountains."

He's right, usually just over the hill you can see the mountaintops, but today it's a different story.

And again, everyone is talking about it, especially allergy sufferers.

If you are going to be out running errands, think about putting your air conditioner on recycle so you'll re-circulate the air inside your car, instead of the hazy air from outside.

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