COHUTTA WILDERNESS, GA -- Firefighters in north Georgia say despite an absence of rainfall, the largest of the area’s wildfires may be close to burning itself out. The Cohutta Wilderness fire has sent a giant plume of smoke straight to metro Atlanta for a couple of weeks.
In spite of the size of the fire, firefighters actually believe they’re gaining control of it
Opal Fulton of the Florida Forest Service has been among the hundreds of firefighters battling a myriad of fires in north Georgia. She has been in the Cohutta Wilderness, a federally protected area mostly in Fannin County, for fourteen days.
"We’ll pull that out and mop up everything sixty to a hundred feet in," Fulton said, pointing to a fire hose on a truck, then gesturing toward smoldering spots just inside the boundary of the Cohutta Wilderness.
She and her crew have developed a pattern to contain the wildfire, which lightning sparked a month ago and is fueled by bone-dry underbrush that has gone without substantial rain for months.
"Bump down the line, mop up another sixty feet in," she said, indicating the incremental pace of wildfire containment. They are working the edges of the Cohutta Wilderness, backburning toward the wildfire, then mopping out the flames.
"Then when they come back tomorrow, mop up a hundred feet in," she said. "We’ll just take it in little bites."
By controlled burning of the edges of the wilderness, they aim to deprive the wildfire of anything else to burn. And officials say it’s been effective – even without any rain to help them.
"We do not expect the fire will raise up again and do anything more than creep along and burn some unburned pockets at this time," said Cheryl Chipman, a National Park Service spokeswoman flown in from California to help with the Cohutta fire. "We have very good confidence the fire will just continue to do what it’s doing here, which is just smoke a little, smolder and eventually go out."
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