Chuck Peters took this photo of the latest wildfire in the Head River neighborhood atop Lookout.
An overextended Georgia Forestry Commission doesn't even have an estimate of the size of the latest Dade wildfire -- 3- or 400 acres is as close as GFC Public Information Officer Seth Hawkins was willing to venture -- but Hawkins confirmed Thursday afternoon that the wildfire spreading up Sulphur Springs Gap from Rising Fawn to the Head River community atop Lookout has kept firefighters working around the clock.
Wildfires on Fox Mountain and on Lookout in the West Brow area continue to smolder but are considered contained, said Hawkins. "Our resources are spread all over the place," he said. But Heath Morton, head ranger of the Dade County Georgia Forestry Commission, who had spent all Wednesday night at the south-end blaze had told Hawkins, "Everything else is small potatoes" next to this one.
Hawkins confirmed that this latest wildfire has threatened houses enough for the rangers to take protective measures around some. Fancher Nakhleh, who lives off Sulphur Springs Road in Rising Fawn, said GFC rangers had bulldozed a firebreak behind her house and two neighboring ones and were planning to "back-burn" the area between them and the state line on Friday, to deprive the wildfire of the fuel to spread nearer. Speaking Thursday evening, she said the fire was still a mile away from her home but had advanced alarmingly since Wednesday. "I can see the difference in how it has moved up to my house," she said.
Basil Nakhleh snapped this shot of the fire off Sulphur Springs Gap Road in Rising Fawn.
Seth Hawkins could not estimate how many firefighters had been assigned to this blaze but said that task forces from all over the state continue to be deployed backand forth across GFC's Coosa district, the part of the state north of Atlanta, including Dade and Walker. He said that "a good chunk" of this latest fire, which started earlier this week in the Battelle area on the Georgia/Alabama border, is on the Alabama side and is being handled by the Alabama Forestry Service.
Hawkins said that as far as GFC has been able to ascertain, all the fires--and there were 23 in the Coosa district just yesterday--have been accidental. In these extreme drought conditions, he said, it doesn't take much to start a major fire and the commission is urging citizens to use extreme caution. He stressed that in this part of the state, where burn permits are required for outdoor burning, GFC is not currently issuing any.
So residents should wait to burn brush or trash until another time, please. If you are camping in a state park where campfires are allowed, said Hawkins, make sure yours is out before you leave. "Put it out with water," he said. Don't throw lit cigarettes out the window, said Hawkins, and make sure nothing is dragging from your car.
Dragging from your car? Right, said Hawkins. One fire in Georgia started from a car dragging an object along the pavement, causing sparks that ignited the underbrush on the side of the highway.
Where there's fire there's smoke.
And one more word of caution: Until it starts raining again, smoke is the new fog. Be aware that smoke reduces visibility, making it a driving hazard. So slow down and be careful not to tailgate the car in front of you.
"We're always warning people to be leery of smoke," said Hawkins.