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Fire closes cabin at Smithgall Woods State Park

POSTED: December 27, 2013 11:21 p.m.

While most people were sleeping on Christmas morning, firefighters in White County were responding to a fire at a rental cabin at Smithgall Woods State Park just east of Helen.

The call came into the White County Fire Department at 5:36 a.m., after guests staying in the cabin smelled smoke and discovered the fire. No one was injured.

“The cottage was occupied by some of our regular guests,” said the park’s general manager John Erbele. “They saw an area on the porch roof that was in flames, and fire extinguishers and water were not effective enough to put it out.

“The fire department arrived very quickly. They really minimized the damage.”

Firefighters responded from three county stations and from the city of Helen. Despite running into some complications due to the below-freezing temperature, which can cause equipment to malfunction and make it difficult to access the building, firefighters were able to put out the fire with only moderate damage to the building.

The cause of fire is still under investigation but is believed to be electrical in nature, according to White County Public Safety Director David Murphy.

Damage was confined to the roof of the cottage with only minor smoke and water damage to the interior, Erbele said. Repairs on the building, which was built in 1991, will begin sometime next week, and the cottage is expected to reopen in two to four weeks.

Erbele said there was no danger to the other rental cabins.

“We are just grateful all our guests were fine and the cottage can be quickly repaired,” Erbele said. “There was some damage to (the) roof and minimal damage to the interior, but it could have been a lot worse.”


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