Lookout Mountain Fire Smolders On, but Hang Gliding Park Reopens

The firefighting crew on the Lookout Mountain wildfire had been ratcheted down to about 30 to 40 on Monday morning from the over 60 who battled the flames over the weekend, said Georgia Forestry Commission spokeswoman Patricia Stockett. She said the fire was fully contained in that it was wholly inside the firebreaks though it continues to burn at the time of this report.

"The weather's definitely not on our side right now," said Ms. Stockett.

She said the fire that closed down Lookout Mountain Flight Park on Saturday was a continuation of the one that had raged on the mountain two weeks before. "We're having issues with what we call a reburn," she said.

In a reburn, she explained, dry weather and wind direction make conditions favorable for hot pockets to start dry leaves and other fuel burning, reigniting the older fire.

Ms. Stockett said no structures are currently threatened and she in fact denied that the GFC had evacuated the hang gliding park. "There were no evacuations," she said. "None."

She said that the park had chosen to close on Saturday for a variety of reasons. "The thermals coming up from the fire were too hot for the hang gliders," she said. Besides, she said, the firefighters had closed off Scenic Highway on Saturday for all but residential traffic, from Burkhalter Gap Road to the cell tower, which would itself have been enough to put a crimp in business.

Ms. Stockett said the fire had involved around 200 acres so far and that the GFC, besides its firefighters and bulldozers on the ground, had planes and helicopters monitoring it from the air.

At Lookout Mountain Flight Park, employee Jen Richards on Monday morning said the air was smoky but that visitors were once again flying and business was back to usual. "We're just thankful for the Forest Service and the fire department keeping us safe," she said.

But she said she had understood what happened on Saturday morning to have been an evacuation. "That's what we were told," she said.

She said that the order to leave had come between 8-8:30 a.m. on Saturday, when the park was just opening for the morning. About 200 gliders along with harnesses and computers were moved from the facility atop Lookout to the park's landing zone in Wildwood, with members of the community pitching in to help employees.

The park was given the green light to open as usual on Sunday, said Ms. Richards.

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