Greg Foster snapped this shot of a campground host's fire at Cloudland Canyon this afternoon.
Cloudland Canyon State Park employees confirmed this afternoon that the park was permitting campfires in its campgrounds. Meanwhile, Dade County Commission Executive Chairman Ted Rumley had reminded all at the commission's regular December meeting just the night before that the countywide ban on all outside burning was still in effect, probably until sometime next week. The ban was imposed due to the wildfires that have ravaged the county from north to south and mountain to mountain since early October.
So what gives at Cloudland Canyon? After local hiker Greg Foster submitted the above photo, The Dade Planet asked the park and was informed that the order to lift the burn ban there had come from Joseph Hughes, assistant manager of the state park system, and that campfires had been crackling since Tuesday.
But not for long: "Those fires should be going out in about 10 minutes," said Commissioner Rumley, contacted by phone immediately thereafter. "Evidently they didn't understand what a 'burn ban' meant."
Rumley said he'd just taken the matter up with Georgia Department of Natural Resources Regional Director Joe Yeager. He said Yeager was immediately cooperative but had explained that the ban had been rescinded at the park because revenues were down as campers canceled their reservations. "It kind of burned me up," said Rumley.
Fires were only banned at the park Nov. 12, and then at the county's request. The park sells firewood to campers, who rely on fire for cooking as well as warmth during the peak fall camping season.
Life may shortly go back to normal at the park. With this week's rains dousing most of Dade's wildfires--even the monster fire at Tatum Gulf has now been upgraded to 95 percent containment by the Georgia Forestry Service--Rumley said the ban will in fact probably be lifted soon -- "If it rains like it's supposed to," he specified. "But if it doesn't, we won't."