Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, center, at the wildfire briefing Wednesday morning
Andrew Lewis, 21, has been arrested for arson in connection with damaging fires north of Chattanooga. More details on the arrests were to be given at a news conference.
Lewis was arrested Thursday night. He is accused of setting a fire on Smith and Cagle Mountain near Blue Sewanee Road. He is accused of several charges including setting fires to personal property and vandalism of property over $250,000.
Residents had to evacuate near two wildfires north of Chattanooga on Thursday, but no homes have yet been damaged.
Tri-State Mutual Aid agencies remained at the Boston Branch subdivision throughout Wednesday night. Walden's Ridge Emergency Services reported fire crews conducted a tanker shuttle operation by drafting water out of Boston Branch Lake and spraying 180,000 gallons of water around the homes that are endangered.
Officials said late Thursday afternoon that firefighters continue to be on the scene spraying water on the terrain below the homes of Boston Branch on Signal Mountain. The Tennessee Forestry Division advises residents that the area continues to be unsafe but will continue to have security by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. No structures have been damaged and no injuries have been reported.
The Tennessee Forestry Division advised Hamilton County Office of Emergency Management to evacuate residents who live on Arnat Drive and Bonelia Circle on Mowbray Mountain. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office went door to door asking residents to evacuate their homes temporarily. Later on Thursday, those residents were allowed to return.
A shelter was opened for the Arnat Drive and Bonelia Circle evacuees at Mowbray Presbyterian Church at 2317 Mowbray Pike.
Mowbray VFD Chief Chris Weddington advised residents on Arnat Drive and Bonnelia Circle late Thursday that they could return to their homes.
Tri-State Mutual Aid fire crews were on the scene of Arnat Drive and Bonelia Circle protecting the endangered homes with continuous water supply using the tanker shuttle. Firefighters were on the scene all day Thursday focusing on Arnat Drive and Bonnelia Circle. No structures have been damaged. According to Mowbray VFD Chief Chris Weddington, 30 homes continue to be endangered by the wildfires. Air drops continued with fire retardant on Mowbray Mountain until dusk.
Officials said, "Special thanks to all the citizens and businesses of Hamilton County who brought food and water for these firefighters working feverishly to protect the property on Mowbray Mountain."
At 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Tennessee Forestry Division and Hamilton County Office of Emergency Management recommended that residents on Little Bend Road evacuate their homes and make provisions to be away for a couple of days. There are 26 homes on Little Bend Road. Currently, 64 residents on Little Bend Road have voluntarily evacuated their homes. Fire crews advise residents will not be returning this morning just as a side of caution.
The two woodland fires north of Chattanooga have burned over a thousand acres, County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Wednesday.
He said fighting the fires at Flipper Bend at North Chickamauga Creek and another on Mowbray Mountain has been costly. Use of two Blackhawk helicopters is $72,000 per day.
The county mayor, who is the former city fire chief, said firefighters told him "it is like a war zone up there."
He said special training is needed to deal with woodland fires, "and it is completely different from structure fires."
He praised local firms that have been providing food and other supplies to firefighters, including a dozen who came in from Nevada. He said a chainsaw was taken to Lewis Gothard of Sale Creek. When he did not have the part to repair it, he gave the firefighters a replacement saw.
The county mayor urged residents not to start any fires in the woods and to be careful with disposing of cigarettes.
With the help of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture using its aerial digital software, the Tennessee Forestry Division is able to confirm a more accurate number of acres burning as of Wednesday morning. They report at Flipper Bend 780 have burned.
Officials said the water drops and fire retardant drops helped significantly. The fire held within the fire breaks over night on Tuesday. Higher humidity levels overnight also helped with the fires. However, winds whipped up on Thursday, fanning the flames.