BANDY CREEK | The ban on open fires in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area and Obed Wild & Scenic River has been lifted.
Park superintendent Niki S. Nicholas made that announcement Wednesday (Dec. 6) morning, while stressing that visitors to the twin national parks should exercise caution when using fire.
As drought conditions worsened across the region, the Big South Fork and Obed first restricted fires in the backcountry while exempting the use of fire in established campgrounds and picnic areas. Later, however, all open fires were banned, including charcoal grills. The measures were put into place as dozens of wildfires broke out across East Tennessee, including one in southeastern Scott County that burned more than 5,000 acres.
Recent rains have drastically reduced the wildfire threat. No wildfires have been reported across the northern Cumberland Plateau region this week.
The rains began with 1.5 inches of precipitation the week of Thanksgiving, the single-greatest rainfall in Scott County since June. So far, an additional seven-tenths of an inch of rain have fallen through the first six days of December.
While wildfire conditions have eased, a severe drought remains in place across the region. November’s rainfall was below-average, and December’s rainfall is below-average so far as well. For the calendar year, the rainfall deficit is running at about 10 inches.
One of the chief indicators of drought is streamflow. At Leatherwood Ford near Oneida, the Big South Fork River was flowing at 141 cubic feet per second (cfs) Wednesday morning. The typical streamflow for this time of year is around 1,400 cfs.