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Prescribed burn in Sullivan County is source of smoke here last Friday evening

By Lacy Hilliard
The smoky haze and smell of burning hardwood over the majority of Johnson County on the evening of Friday, March 21 left many wondering the source. As it turns out, a prescribed burn of a 4,000-acre section of the Cherokee National Forest in Sullivan County was the cause.
Prescribed burns are carried out by the forest service in an effort to prevent uncontrolled forest fires as well as to restore balance to the ecosystem. Research has shown that prescribed burns can be beneficial to plant life as well as wildlife in a number of ways. Prescribed burns on such a grand scale must be carefully planned and carried out by forestry professionals.
Though the fire that caught the attention of Johnson County residents was a prescribed burn, several small wildfires did take place this past week in Johnson County. Fire Chief Kevin Colson told The Tomahawk that it’s extremely important that residents obtain a burn permit (which is required by law) and to only burn after 4:00 p.m. to reduce the risk of a controlled fire becoming uncontrolled. Other ways to reduce fire risk include not burning near wooded areas, clearing brush and debris away from dwellings and never leaving a fire unattended. It’s also important to note that burning anything other than natural vegetation is illegal. For a full list of burning restrictions and fire safety tips, visit