Largest fire in Georgia history continues to burn

• By Elaine Owen, Editor •

The Rough Ridge wildfire has engulfed nearly 22,000 acres— almost 4,000 more since last week.

US Forest Service officials said nearly 300 firefighters are working to extinguish the fire where 20 percent has been con­tained. Three crews, two heli­copters, eight engines and two bulldozers have been implored.

The U.S. Forest Service blames a lightning strike in mid- October for the cause of the fire. For weeks, local crews battled the flames, but the fire quickly became too big, too fast.

Public Information Officer Susie Heisey spoke with Fannin Sentinel Sunday afternoon.

She said the fire is slowly back­ing down to the Jacks River on the north and to Forest Road 68 on the South. Firefighters are us­ing fire to tie in to the natural and established containment lines in those areas on the northern and southern perimeters of the fire. Crews worked Saturday to mop up and hold lines by removing leaves that continue to fall and cover the containment lines. Structure protection efforts contin­ue around private properties near the fire.

Rough Ridge wildfire

Rough Ridge wildfire

Planned Actions: Strategic firing opera­tions will continue to be used in areas to bring the fire closer to the natural breaks and established containment lines being utilized to control the fire. Mop up will continue as crews ensure that the lines around the fire perimeter are secure. All containment lines must continue to be pa­trolled as leaves continue to drop. Some portions of the fire may see active to very active fire behavior as the fire moves down slope.

OPEN HOUSE: The Southern Area In­cident Management Gold Team held an Open House at the Power House at 2985 Old Hwy. 5 (near Fannin Regional Hos­pital) Tuesday night from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. More than 400 people came the first hour. The Open House was to inform the public about incident wildland fire man­agement.

Fire Weather: An area of high pressure from the north was ex­pected in the region and bring eastto northeast winds Monday and cooler temperatures will lead to higher humidity. Winds will slacken tonight and combine with clear skies to bring freezing.

Closures: The entire Cohutta Wilder­ness, National Forest lands north and west of FS Road 64, and National Forest lands east of FS Road 16, and the Conasauga River are closed. In addition, the follow­ing areas are closed:

  • FS Road 68 from Watson Gap to Po­tatopatch (entire length).
  • FS Road 68 from Holly Creek Gap to Lake Conasauga.
  • FS Road 49 from Lake Conasauga to Grassy Mountain Tower.
  • FS Road 17 from the intersection with FS road 68 north to Alaculsy Valley.
  • FS Road 16 between the Conasauga River and Jacks River.
  • FS Road 51 from the intersection of Cottonwood Patch to the wilderness boundary.
  • FS Road 630 west of Hickey Gap at Lackey Knob and Hal Brannon Road.
  • Jack’s River Fields, Cottonwood Patch, Lake Conasauga (and the day-use area) and Overflow Campgrounds.

The Conasauga Ranger District has brought in additional Law Enforcement personnel to assist with road closures and fire restrictions. Officers are increasing patrols and working extended shifts.

Hunters preparing for the big game hunt season should remain aware of closure in­formation. Please respect all closures and monitor changes in the coming days. Clo­sures are in place for public and firefighter safety.

A total fire ban is in place on the Chat­tahoochee-Oconee National Forests. This means building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire (including char­coal based fire whether contained in a grill or not) is prohibited. Commercially available fuel stoves (camp stoves) are al­lowed. In addition, Fannin, Gilmer, and Murray Counties are among counties that have issued a ban on all outdoor burning until further notice. No open burning of any type is permitted, including campfires and fire pits. For more information on the burn ban for Fannin County, contact the Fannin County Emergency Management Agency at 706-632-1958.

Due to the extreme drought conditions, individuals are encouraged to use Fire­wise tactics around their home and prop­erty. For information on Firewise, visit www.firewise.org. Below are a few rec­ommendations

  • Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
  • Keep your lawn hydrated and main­tained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire. If it is brown cut it down to reduce fire intensity.
  • Remove fuel within 3-5 feet of your home’s foundation and out buildings including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
  • Remove dead vegetation surround­ing your home, within a 30 to100 foot area.

Air Quality: Smoke will continue to im­pact areas southeast of the Cohutta Wil­derness today. However, fires throughout northern Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina all have the potential to impair air quality. Conditions may change quickly, based on weather, wind direction and fire activity. Sensitive groups includ­ing individuals with asthma, lung or heart disease, children, older adults and preg­nant women should take precautions to avoid exposure to smoke.

If you feel like you are having health effects from smoke, see your doctor or health professional as needed. Use cau­tion when driving in or around smoky areas.