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Weather conditions raise risk of fires in Hall
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Gusty winds, low humidity and dry earth are making for a dangerous combination.

The National Weather Service in Peachtree City issued a fire hazard warning Wednesday for North and Middle Georgia counties, and conditions aren’t likely to subside until at least next week.

“It’s going to continue to be dry and temperatures will be closer to normal for this time of year for a few days, then start to climb back up to above normal,” said Patricia Atwell of the National Weather Service.

Wednesday was especially a worry, as winds blew up to 25 mph, prompting the agency to declare a “red flag warning” for North and Middle Georgia counties, including Hall.

“Fires that develop will likely spread quickly,” the weather statement said.

Despite a blast of rain that hit parts of Hall County on Tuesday, conditions have been largely dry in the area.

Rain is not in the forecast through at least Monday night. Tuesday carries a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.

Today’s forecast calls for sunny skies and a high temperature near 66. Friday is expected to be a little warmer but windier.

Mostly sunny skies stay in the forecast through Tuesday, with highs near 80 Sunday and Monday, according to the weather service.

Meanwhile, the window is closing fast for those interested in trying to burn yard debris.

The Hall County and Gainesville fire departments suspended issuing burn permits Wednesday because of the weather, with officials saying they’re keeping an eye on conditions.

And the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s annual summer burn ban, which is enforced in 54 Georgia counties, including Hall, is set for May 1-Sept. 30.

Chad Payne, Gainesville’s fire marshal, said his department checks the weather forecast every morning to “make sure we can burn. And then, it’s a judgment call. I look out the window and if it’s windy as all get out, then probably we’ll cut off (the permits).”

Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell said he also heeds the forecasts, especially noting Wednesday’s warning.

The weather agency “has a whole science to that, as far as the relative humidity, the soil moisture and projected winds,” he said.

“On any day, if the winds get above 10 mph, we suspend (permits). That’s in our local ordinance.”

Otherwise, both departments are on heightened alert during dry, windy conditions.

“This is typically when we have people throwing out cigarettes, starting fires,” Kimbrell said.

The red flag warning also included the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, which is based at 1755 Cleveland Highway, Gainesville.

“Our fire management program has identified and pre-positioned individuals and equipment to be prepared to respond to the threat of wildfires in the event that we need to,” said Judy Toppins, public affairs staff officer.

The U.S. Forest Service also works closely with the Georgia Forestry Commission and others in an effort “to educate communities about the elevated risk of wildfires in the spring,” she said.

Regional events