Fall has come to North Georgia, and with it cooler temperatures and changing leaves, but some remnants of summer still remain.
Large swaths of North Georgia continue to be in a serious state of drought, some areas as much as 16 and a half inches below normal rain levels, according to Susan Ford, public information officer for the Forest Service.
According to Gainesville Fire Marshal Chad Payne, the drought combined with an increase in dead leaves and branches on the ground can lead to a dangerous situation if precautions are not taken.
“We are about to enter into the season of increased dead fall foliage. That and the combination of the continuing drought is setting us up for some wild land fires,” Payne said.
He said that though the threat of wildfires to houses is rare, it can happen.
Payne said that this situation was heightened by the last few days of high winds in the area, and as a result, the city has stopped all city burn permits until conditions improve.
Payne said Friday afternoon that three illegal burns were reported in the county, and that these fires can be especially dangerous due to wind and lack of available water.
Due to the dangerous, dry conditions, Wednesday the Forest Service issued a campfire restriction for the Chattahoochee National Forest.
The restriction states that, “Extended hot, dry weather combined with dead and dry vegetation has caused extremely high wildfire danger in the northern forests of Georgia,” and that due to these dangerous conditions, all “building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire outside of developed recreation areas” is prohibited within the Chattahoochee National Forest until the new year or the situation is mitigated by rainfall.
In the wake of the recent restriction, Ford said campers and hikers using the approved metal fire rings within developed campgrounds or gas backpacking stoves should be safe, provided that they use caution and “clear the ground of foliage before starting a fire.”
She further stated that in the high wind conditions, campers and hikers should be wary of allowing active fire to be pushed by the wind, and to fully extinguish coals before leaving camp.