Fire damages 7 acres of forest land

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   A brush fire that burned out of control spread to a nearby forest and damaged several acres of land along the old Bristol Highway Monday shortly before noon.
   According to James Heaton of the U.S. Forestry Service, approximately 7 acres of forest land were damaged in the fire. "I really won't know for sure until I map it out and see," Heaton said.
   Heaton said the fire started as a controlled burn. "Someone was burning a brush pile in the hollow and it got out of hand," he said. The fire damaged forest land along the old Bristol Highway, approximately one mile north of Slagle's Pasture.
   The extent of the damage was not known Monday afternoon. "It probably killed some of the Rhododendrons here but the larger trees probably won't be hurt," Heaton said.
   Members of the Watauga and Central Volunteer Fire Departments responded to the scene along with personnel from the U.S. Forestry Service to battle the fire. Heaton estimated that between 15 and 20 people worked to extinguish the fire, which started around 11:30 a.m.
   Those who responded used water to fight the blaze as well as fire lines and broken ground to contain it.
   "You will still have embers and logs and stumps smoldering in the lines but hopefully everything will die down overnight," he said.
   Heaton advises residents to be extra cautious when burning brush piles or burning out gardens due to dry conditions. He also said that, until May 15, residents are still required to obtain a burn permit through the U.S. Forestry Service when planning to burn brush or burn out fields or gardens.