Dade County Burning

November 14, 2016

 

 From Cloverdale Road on Friday afternoon, a train travels north-south as above it a wildfire spreads up Sulphur Springs Gap to join with the wildfire at Tatum Gulf.

 

Dade air is thick with smoke on Monday morning as wildfires burn from one end of the county to the other and from valley to mountaintop.

 

The Georgia Forestry Commission reported on Monday morning that the wildfires formerly known as the Cloverdale fire, coming up from the valley in Rising Fawn, and the Tatum Gulf fire atop Lookout had now joined forces and covered approximately 1325 acres. Total fire acreage there is expected to reach 3200 acres.

 

GFC gave an evacuation order on Sunday to residents of the Lookout Highlands neighborhood on Lookout. Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley, on the scene Monday morning, said very few residents had left their homes. "You can't force a person out of their home unless they commit a crime," he said.

 

But GFC on Monday said the order was still in place, and that shelters for evacuees had been established at Trenton United Methodist Church and New Salem Community Center on Lookout Mountain.

 

Rumley said that about 50 homes in Lookout Highlands are affected by the evacuation order. "We have fire departments from all over the state kind of babysitting the houses," he said. GFC estimated about 160 homes on the mountain and about 13 in Cloverdale were imperiled, though: "We have not had and do not expect any structure loss or damage," said GFC Information Officer Seth Hawkins in a press release Monday morning.

 

GFC said another fire at Creek Road in Wildwood, at the north end of the county now encompasses about 150 acres, menacing one home though, again, no damage is anticipated. 

                     The fire as seen Friday from peaceful Forester Cemetery in Rising Fawn.

 

As for suspected arson in the Wildwood fire, the Dade County Sheriff's Department reported it had not made any arrests but that GFC generally handles such arrests itself. GFC spokespeople were not immediately available--the commission is spread pretty thin on the ground at present--but Ted Rumley said he did not believe anyone had been arrested though: "There's been some fires that have been set, there's no doubt of that."

 

Rumley said three smaller fires around the county had been set and put out "pretty quick" on Saturday.

 

Rumley confirmed that he had, also on Saturday, caused about 40 campfires at Cloudland Canyon State Park to be extinguished to avoid more out-of-control burning. He said he called the managing ranger there, Scott Einberger, on Saturday afternoon, and that Einberger told him that he did not have the authority to issue a no-burn order, that the park in fact was actively selling firewood to campers. So Rumley called Becky Kelley, director of the Georgia park system, who did give the order.

 

"She answered her phone," said Rumley. "She handled it."

 

The matter was brought to Rumley's attention after local hiker and trail volunteer Greg "Sardo" Foster, doing trail maintenance at the park, noticed campfires still burning--one unattended--and set off a Facebook controversy about it.

 

Now there is a no-outside-burning order in Dade as well as surrounding counties. Residents are asked to call 911 to report any outside fires. 

 

The Dade Planet will post updates about the fire situation as they become available.

 

An "air tanker" plane was deployed on Friday to dump water on the Tatum Gulf fire from above. But GFC reported the effort failed, that the water was released in the wrong location and never reached the ground.   

 

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