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Area put on fire alert
"Red flag" alert issued by National Weather Service
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Smokey Bear is on high alert this weekend. The National Weather Service issued a “red flag” warning for wildfire conditions in Hall and surrounding counties Saturday, the second such warning this year.

The warning states that dry fuel moisture conditions, combined with low relative humidity and winds of 10 mph or more, create “dangerous fire weather conditions” in Northeast Georgia. The warning also applies to Lumpkin, White, Jackson and Habersham counties, among others.

Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said such warnings are fairly common in the fall, but this year is different. Cagle said with the near-record drought, there hasn’t been more ideal conditions for a wildfire “in a long, long time.”

“Things have just been made worse by this drought,” Cagle said. “It’s just amazing how dry the conditions are. A fire could really go fast in these conditions.”

Cagle said while small roadside fires from discarded cigarette butts are on the rise, for the most part wildfires have not increased in the dry conditions. That’s partly due to folks heeding the fire marshal’s extended ban on outdoor burning, and partly luck, Cagle said.

“I think we have been very lucky,” he said.

Those who have ignored the burn ban have been ticketed. Of the 20 or so people written up for unauthorized fires since Oct. 1, about half were burning yard debris and half were burning building supplies, Cagle said. Only cooking fires are permitted, and not many people have argued against the ban.

“I know of only two or three complaints,” Cagle said. “Most people have been very understanding.”