published Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Walker County controlled burn brings smoke to Chattanooga

Smoke filled the Chattanooga sky Saturday evening because of a combination of wind and fire from the south.

The U.S. Forest Service conducted a controlled burn on federal land in the “pocket wilderness” area of Walker County, Ga., between the Johns and Horn mountains. The burn ran from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and stretched about 900 acres.

Jeff Schardt, a district fire management officer in the Chattahoochee National Forest, said that while these controlled burns bring smoke, they are also necessary. On Saturday, Forest Service employees burned leaves and shrubs and pine needles to prevent a more dangerous, unpredictable wildfire later.

Those pieces of the forest are like fuel, just waiting to ignite.

“We try to burn those small pieces off,” he said.

While winds pushed smoke from his fire to the north, Schardt wasn’t sure all the smoke in Chattanooga came just from Walker County. He suspected that other groups were doing controlled burns, though he didn’t know which ones.

Another controlled burn was just south of Interstate 75 near Alabama Highway, a Catoosa County dispatcher said Saturday night. She didn’t know which agency was conducting the burn.

A dispatcher with the Georgia Forestry Commission said he was not allowed to comment on controlled burns. He transferred a reporter to a commission spokeswoman, who could not be reached Saturday night.

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