Firefighters In Tennessee Continue Battle With Several Wildfires Believed To Be Arson

Monday, March 26th 2007, 10:11 pm
By: News On 6

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) _ Fire crews dug lines and hoped to begin putting out what was left of several weekend wildfires statewide that investigators believe may have been caused by arson.

A fire below Signal Mountain, near Chattanooga, required several air-tanker drops of retardant Monday. The fire on the mountain's eastern side threatened several homes before it was halted.

Crews planned to begin fighting it Tuesday on the western half of the mountain, where no structures were threatened, said Robert Rhinehart, assistant district forester in the Chattanooga Forestry Division office.

Fires north of Knoxville burned 2,300 acres _ more than 3 1/2 square miles _ by Monday, said Nathan Waters, a state assistant district forester. Ten were arson related, one was caused by fireworks and two were debris fires that got away, he said.

Rhinehart said there were 28 other fires in his district burning 147 acres over the weekend, before the Signal Mountain fire.

``The numbers are up there to keep the folks in this district occupied with their normal fires; then you throw in a big one like this, it really strains our resources and personnel,'' he said.

Other fires were reported Monday, with one of about 40 acres near Nashville, WTVF-TV reported.

Rhinehart said 61 percent of the 352 fires in southeast Tennessee since Jan. 1 have been arson.

The area's rainfall total since Jan. 1 is 6.28 inches _ less than half the 30-year average of 15.34 inches for the same time period. Sunday's high temperature at Chattanooga was 88 degrees, a record for the date.