Stiff winds worsen north Georgia wildfires

Several wildfires burning in north Georgia

BLUE RIDGE, GA -- A stiff breeze is broadening a wildfire that burned for more than three weeks in north Georgia.  The fire is in a wilderness area in Fannin and Gilmer counties.   

The good news is that the fire really isn’t threatening towns like Ellijay or Blue Ridge. But the bad news is that the smoke has plagued some folks for days.

The fire is in an isolated area called the Cohutta Wilderness  – thousands of wooded acres owned by the federal government. It started mid October likely by a stray lightning strike.  Weeks of dry weather has turned the forest into tinder.  Winds overnight made the wildfire even more unpredictable.

"The change in weather conditions, that has us changing our strategy and tactics to respond to the fire," said Susan Blake of the US Forest Service. 

The fire has also poured smoke into some nearby communities.  Beulah Morrison says she endured days of it.

It was "bad. You’d close the windows but the smoke just seeped in. if you had a breathing problem it was just bad," Morrison said.

Forest Service officials say the goal is to keep the fire contained – though winds increased its size by ten percent over the last day.  Firefighters are building fire breaks and other barriers to try to prevent it from spreading.

"The challenges are the steep terrain, and the firefighters have to hike in as much as 14 miles," Blake said.  "So it’s rugged, steep and quite arduous work."

Blake says the fire mostly isn't threatening residential areas.  The closest is a few houses outside the eastern edge of the fire called the Jones settlement.  However, with winds blowing westward, firefighter believe the community is safe for now..



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