North Georgia fires burn through national forests

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Just on the edge of Thanksgiving, when many Atlanta and Decatur residents want to head to the mountains for crisp
autumn air and vibrant colors of leaves, fires have been burning through thousands of acres of North Georgia mountains. 

Not only have the fires been raging through the forests, they have also been sending down heavy smoke to metro-Atlanta.

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, wildfires play a key role in maintaining the forest ecosystem, but the issue with these fires is that they are burning at an uncontrolled rate due to high winds and dry weather.

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For many forest ecosystems, wildfires can be a good thing! Wildfires burn through thick undergrowth and decaying plants and trees to provide a clean slate for new growth. The nutrients from these return to the soil to promote more diversity in plant growth.

For Josh Brown, co-founder and owner of the blog Wander North Georgia, the fires mean a lot more than hazy air and acres of burned forest.

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Wander North Georgia raised more than $1000 with the money from selling stickers on their website, as well as taking a 10% donation from all of their sales. Photo courtesy of Josh Brown

“They’re pretty much taking over thousands of acres of national forest land, but it’s also impacting the economic side of things,” Brown said. “It’s affecting a lot of small business owners that are based on tourist dollars. People are cancelling reservations for cabins and vacations and not going camping because they can’t have fires.”

On the Wander North Georgia instagram, Brown and his team have been giving updates on each of the fires, as well as selling stickers to buy items like water, eye drops, cough drops, bandanas and granola bars for residents and firefighters.

“I’m not sure everyone in Atlanta really knows what’s going on, so we’re just trying to talk about the fires without making them seem like a doomsday thing,” Brown said. 

The smoke plumes from many fires around the southeast can be seen from NASA satellites.
The smoke plumes from many fires around the southeast can be seen from NASA satellites. Photo courtesy of NASA MODIS aboard Aqua satellite

While firefighters have made significant progress in the containment of these fires, some, like the Rock Mountain fire are continuing to grow.

In a Rabun County Courthouse briefing about the fires, Noel Livingston, incident commander of one of the fires, said that the Rock Mountain fire “probably is going to be 30,000 acres.”