published Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Wildfire burns 400 acres in Dade County

Smoke from a woods fire hangs over Walker County, Ga. Fire crews worked to extinguish the blaze, which involved 300 acres. It was contained late Friday.
Smoke from a woods fire hangs over Walker County, Ga. Fire crews worked to extinguish the blaze, which involved 300 acres. It was contained late Friday.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

RISING FAWN, Ga. — Retired elementary school teacher Etna James wasn't too concerned Friday afternoon about a brush fire burning hundreds of acres in the woods near her Lookout Mountain home.

"This happens every year," said James, as a plume of smoke rose about a mile from her Vulcan Drive home. "One theory is that someone starts it to burn off the grass so when they turkey hunt, they can see the turkeys."

"As long as the forestry department comes, I'm not worried," James said.

Georgia Forestry Commission firefighters had what they dubbed the Vulcan Fire contained by 5 p.m. Friday, forestry commission spokeswoman Denise Croker said. The 283-acre blaze started Thursday evening at the border of Dade and Walker counties. Its cause was still under investigation.

Meanwhile, four other, smaller brush fires had cropped up.

"One was 10 acres, one was at 40 [acres], one was set in tornado blow-down, about 100 acres," Croker said at 5 p.m. The fourth fire was fairly small, she said.

The new fires could have come off the Vulcan Fire, Croker said. Or something else could have sparked them -- possibly arson.

"Dade County does have an arson problem independent of turkey fires or anything like that," she said.

No structures were threatened, Croker said. The forestry commission battled the Vulcan Fire and the smaller brush fires with three bulldozers, two fire engines, a helicopter to drop water and a fixed-wing spotter plane to watch the fire from above, forestry commission spokeswoman Wendy Barrett said Friday morning.

High winds and low humidity made conditions ripe for fire to spread, Croker said.

"This is actually our wildfire season, from the first frost until we start getting green again."

While the Vulcan Fire smouldered deep in the woods, around 3 p.m., nine Walker County firefighters battled a roughly 1-acre fire right alongside Nick-A-Jack Road near a home in the 3100 block.

Fire Chief Randy Camp, who helped hose down the flames, wasn't immediately sure what caused the Nick-A-Jack Road fire -- but it could have been an unattended burn pile, he said.

"Any time it's windy, it's not a good time to burn," Camp said.

Turkey hunting season in Georgia begins next Saturday and runs through May 15.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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