Wildfires in Tennessee have now killed three people and injured 14 others, and caused untold damage to wildlife and natural resources. As the fires continue to rage out of control, they’re raising questions about whether we’re doing enough to prepare for worsening wildfires in a warming world.
“Over 150 structures in the county have been damaged or destroyed. 70 homes in Wears Valley, 70 homes Cobbly Nob,” reports WVLT’s Casey Wheeless.
It’s estimated over 500 acres of national park lands have been burned. The National Park Service has announced that “Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have closed all facilities in the park due to the extensive fire activity, and downed trees.”
Fortunately, reports indicate the Ripley Aquarium escaped damage and bald eagles from the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary were successfully evacuated. But wildfires pose a variety of threats to wildlife, fish and birds and the damage will take weeks to total.
“The Great Smoky Mountains are one of the most biologically diverse places in the United States, partly due to the geologically ancient nature of the landscape, as well as the wet and humid forests covering their slopes and hollows,” says Bruce Stein, associate vice president for conservation science & climate adaptation at the National Wildlife Federation. “While fire is a natural phenomenon in Appalachian forests, these extreme, drought-fueled fires are not. Rather, they are a glimpse into what many southeastern forests and communities will experience as climate change continues to intensify.”