ROME, Ga. -- After working for most of the day Tuesday, firefighters finally think they have a brush fire in North Georgia under control. But they’re worried the severe drought makes for perfect conditions for more fires to break out at any moment across the state.
On the front lines, firefighters from the Georgia Forestry Commission fought fire with fire, burning off a section of dry forest just south of Rome. It’s a tactic firefighters often use so the advancing fire will have nothing to burn and will eventually die out.
At first fire fighters thought an arsonist might have started the fires, but now they think it might have been an accident. It’s possible a truck passing by on U.S. 27 might have been dragging a chain and kicked up sparks.
Even Chief Ranger Denise Coker was amazed how quickly that spark quickly spread to burn miles and miles of forest in a flash. Firefighters estimate it spread and burned more than 160 acres across ten miles in Floyd, Polk and Habersham Counties.
“A fire like this during normal times could be hazardous,” Coker said. “In this drought condition, just one little spark, just one little ember is all it takes.”
City of Rome fire Chief Gene Proctor said crews were seeing pine trees going up in flames from the ground to the top in an instant.
"Fire spreads a lot faster than people can run when it gets this dry,” he said.
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Fire damaged two homes and destroyed another garage off of Cave Spring Road along with four classic cars inside.
It also came within 300 yards of John Reeves, his home and his family.
“The fire just came up to our property, and they were cutting in a fire break,” he said. “It was pretty horrifying.”
He told 11Alive’s Jon Shirek they’ll be up all night in case it flares up and threatens them again.
One big concern through the night that remains is lingering smoke. As it settles, it could reduce visibility to zero on U.S. 27 where it straddles the Polk and Floyd County line. For now, firefighters believe the worst is over.