North Georgia wildfires continue, smoke returns to metro

ATLANTA — The cloudy smoke and smell of fire returned to the metro Atlanta air Sunday.

The wind is pulling the smoke back into the area and likely won't clear out until Monday or Tuesday, Severe Weather Team 2 meteorologist Brian Monahan said.

U.S. Forest Service officials fighting the Rough Ridge fire in Fannin County Cohutta Wilderness area are now contending with a 20,000-acre area, officials said. The fire is growing around a half-mile a day, exacerbated by dry conditions and wind.

Due to extreme fire danger and the current drought situation, a total fire ban is in place on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests.

The Rock Mountain Fire that is burning about 10 miles north of Clayton has grown to about 900 acres.


A type one incident management team from the Pacific Northwest arrived Sunday and began managing the firefighting effort. They say the more than 150 firefighters have come from as far away as Alaska, Montana and New York.

"With all the numerous fires here in the southeast the resources are strapped,” said Stan Hinastu, with the National Incident Management Type 1 Team.

Man-made fires in Rabun County led officials to evacuate 25-40 residents from Coleman River and Nichols Branch roads Saturday, and the U.S. Forest Service set up a command post to battle to blaze. So far 20 households have been evacuated and two other communities, Tate City and Plum Orchard, are on standby,

Evacuees and firefighters alike are invited to take shelter at Liberty Baptist Church in Tiger.

“It’s a difficult situation, but we’re really trying to help,” Pastor Scott Cates said.

He teamed up with the Red Cross to transform his church into a shelter on Sunday. Volunteers packed hundreds of care packages for firefighters battling the blaze in Rabun County.

“People have just come to say, ‘Whatever we can do, we want to do it,’” he said.

The church says it will stay open 24/7 and just wants to help everyone in this effort however they can.

Fires affect air quality

This fires in Georgia and others throughout Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina have the potential to negatively affect air quality.

Sensitive groups including individuals with asthma, lung or heart disease, children, older adults and pregnant women should take precautions to avoid exposure to smoke. If you feel like you are having health effects from smoke, see your doctor or health professional as needed.

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