Rough Ridge fire now approaching 17,000 acres

Drone video captures thick smoke over Hiawassee, Ga. Several wildfires have broken out across north Georgia thanks to the state's severe drought. Thousands of acres of forests have been burned since. // Video submitted by Chris Harvey

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. -- The Rough Ridge fire burning inside the Cohutta Wilderness area of the Chattahoochee National Forest just keeps getting bigger.

According to the U.S. Forestry Service, the wildfire has now consumed just shy of 17,000 acres of forest -- up from 10,000 acres late in the week -- and is still only about 20 percent contained. More than 200 firefighters and other crew members are working to control the fire, which has been burning since Oct. 16 when a lightning strike started it.

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While some rain did fall over north Georgia Sunday morning, it wasn't enough to quench the severe drought that has gripped the state since October. Thanks to the tinder-dry conditions, fires have sprung up all across the northern portions of the state. 

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The Cohutta Wilderness and Rough Ridge fire are about 90 miles from Atlanta, but its effects were felt all across the metro area throughout the week and into the weekend. On Sunday, winds from the north blew smoke from other wildfires in Georgia and neighboring states into the area. The haze blanketed Atlanta's skyline and raised concerns about air quality

At this time, the entire Cohutta Wilderness, National Forest area north and west of FS Road 64, and National Forest lands east of FS Road 16 and the Conasauga River remain closed. A fire ban is also in place for all parts of the national park.

Officials are forecasting cooler temperatures and higher humidity for Sunday night. Winds are also supposed to taper off later, which will help stop the spread.

Firefighters will continue to monitor flames, cut fire lines and allow the fire to run its natural course. Officials are expected to give an update on the status of the fire and how crews are managing it during a Sunday night open house. That meeting is scheduled 6 p.m. at the Powehouse at 2985 Old Hwy 5 and is open to the public.

PHOTOS | Rough Ridge wildfire

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© 2017 WXIA-TV


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