Wildfire burning in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Authorities are monitoring a fire that’s been burning since Thursday in a remote portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Crawfish Branch fire is approximately 10 acres in size near the Park boundary between Townsend and Wears Valley, spokeswoman Dana Soehn said Friday.

“The smoldering, creeping fire is all within the Park and likely started from a lightning strike,” she said. “Crews are building a suppression line to keep the fire from spreading across the Park boundary onto private land. The fire is currently smoldering along a ridge top near Crawfish Branch between the Park boundary and the Round Top Trail. The trail is not threatened at this time and remains open.”

Townsend Fire Chief Don Stallions said firefighters received the initial report of the fire Thursday around 5:15 p.m. That initial call came in as a possible brush fire, Stallions said. A long search finally ended when they located the remote fire around 9 p.m., Stallions said.

“We could see visible smoke, but had difficulty in finding it,” Stallions said.

He said 12 firefighters and five trucks from the Townsend Area Volunteer Fire Department responded on the initial call. Stallions said it took firefighters about two hours to hike into the remote location where the fire was burning.

Firefighters were able to ascertain no structures were in immediate danger, and a decision was made to stand back and let the fire die down overnight, Stallions said. He warned that the fire will continue to burn over the weekend, and that firefighters will continue to monitor the situation.

“It is going to continue to burn,” Stallions said. “They’ve got a fire line around it, but it’s going to continue to burn, so people are going to see smoke (this) morning.”

He said no structures were in danger as of Friday night.

“We call these summer fires,” Stallions said. “These fires are usually slow moving because even though we are very dry right now, we still have green leaves and green vegetation, which doesn’t burn as quickly as in the winter time. And the humidity levels are high this time of year as well.”

On Friday, a crew made up of four National Park Service personnel and six Tennessee Division of Forestry personnel were on site building the fire line on the northern boundary of the fire. The fire is expected to creep downslope and burn out in the Crawfish Branch drainage area on the Park side.