Tennessee Wildfire Threatens Trail of Tears

Nov 18, 2016 View Comments by

trail-of-tears

Just as we were preparing James T. Parks’ upcoming piece for print—part one of his journey across the historic Trail of Tears—we heard about the wildfire in eastern Tennessee.

Since Wednesday, the wildfire in Monroe County, near Tellico Plains, has threatened homes, a business, and section of the historic trail. When, in 1838 and 1839, Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy forced the Cherokee nation to give up their land east of the Mississippi River, they migrated to present-day Oklahoma. The devastating journey came to be known as the Trail of Tears.

The fire in the Tellico Plains area near the Cherohala Skyway was estimated at 30 acres earlier this week, but has grown to approximately 50. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, whether it worsens will depend on the wind. Local volunteer fire department crews were the first to respond when the fire was reported around 2 a.m. Wednesday. State and federal firefighting crews have since joined, and five homes have been evacuated.

The historic corridor spans about a half-mile-wide and crosses the Cherokee National Forest and private lands for several miles. Normally break lines are cut with bulldozers to keep fires from spreading; because this is a historic site, firefighters have been working by hand to dig fire breaks. No one knows yet how the fire started, but it’s thought to be human caused. Readers can find out more at BurnSafeTN.org.

To learn more about the history of this region, keep an eye out for part one of James T. Parks’ journey along the Trail of Tears. It will appear in RoadRUNNER‘s Jan/Feb ’17 issue.

 

Photography: James T. Parks

 

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