Wildfires are getting to be business as usual in Dade County. The Georgia Forestry Commission currently lists six wildfires in the county and reports on each separately in a daily statewide report compiled by an information officer. But Heath Morton, chief ranger of the GFC's Trenton office, managed to take a few minutes from his duties on Tuesday to give The Dade Planet a closer-in update.
The six Dade fires are Tatum Gulf, Brow, Tower, Creek Road, Sarah Chapel and Fox Mountain. The Tatum Gulf blaze on Lookout Mountain Morton referred to as the "giant." He says the wildfire there is currently at 2836 acres and continues to be the bear of the bunch, preoccupying resources and manpower. In its third week it is only 65 percent contained. Meanwhile, the Brow fire off Brow Road, at 175 acres, was reported 100 percent contained on Sunday though a "reburn," or new fire on a previously burned site, had broken out within the firebreaks on Monday.
GFC has labeled as "Tower" the 170-acre fire on Scenic Highway between Burkhalter Gap and the Lookout Flight Park that burned several weeks ago and then broke out again. The Commission's Tuesday report listed that as 100 percent contained, though: "Reburns occurred today, but were contained."
The 72-acre Creek Road fire in Wildwood is 99 percent contained but a smaller fire broke out nearby on Sarah Chapel on Sunday. Morton said that fire is now about 40 acres and about 80 percent contained. "We did a big burnout yesterday," he said. "That's what was making all the smoke."
Burnouts are firefighters "fighting fire with fire," burning off sources of fuel before the main fire can get to them and use them to spread further.
The Fox Mountain fire which started in early October and has flared up several times in reburns is listed at 100 percent containment.
Morton said those are all the fires he has on his plate right now, though he added: "Ask me that again in a week or so."
He said large task forces of firefighters remain deployed in Dade as they are across North Georgia.. He would not venture to guess how many. Dade's volunteer fire departments as well as GFC rangers are all involved in the firefighting. Morton said he hoped to give his own rangers two days off to be with their families for the Thanksgiving holiday, but if new fire broke out, "We'll come running."
Morton would not confirm or deny rumors that some of the fires were started by arson other than to say that several of them are currently under investigation.