A raging forest fire scorched the woods behind The Hitching Post Package Store and Deli in Ellijay this evening.
According to Ellijay Fire Department Public Information Officer Lorraine Morris, the call came in at approximately 4:37 P.M. Monday afternoon. The call came in, she said, as a controlled burn on Hitching Post property, but then spread through out the forest, burning approximately 15 to 20 acres, spanning from the Courier Drive/Westwood area north past The Hitching Post, almost as far as Letch Drive.
As smoke billowed from the trees and over South Main Street, motorists gawked and pointed at the ribbons of flames running across the mountain side, seen from the road. Motorist slowed, but never stopped, keeping the flow of traffic.
By approximately 5:15, both the Ellijay and Gilmer County Fire Departments were on the scene, along with Georgia Forestry Units. Also during this time, Hand Crew and Fire Suppression Units were on the slopes above the road. Hand Crew units, Morris explained, are armed with rakes and blowers and build firebreaks, while Fire Suppression Units assault flames with hose and water. While Hand Crew and Suppression Units worked the slopes above South Main Street, other units worked on other access points. She said that Georgia Forestry Units were trying to gain access to the fire from an over-grown logging road, cutting their way in with chainsaws.
Also, Georgia Forestry single engine airplanes swooped overhead in circles, surveying the fire, keeping an eye on its proximity to near-by residences.
A couple of hours later, the fire had been mostly contained and Morris assured FYN that no structures were in danger of being damaged and that over the course of the fire no injuries had been sustained.
Morris explained fires like this one are common in the spring because this is the time of the year residents start to burn leaves and twigs, in a control burn, which often spread into larger, less controllable burns, like Monday’s fire. She stressed the importance of burning permits. A burning permit is always required to burn substances, she said, adding that both Ellijay and Gilmer County require burning permits.
My appreciation and congratulations go out to the first responders that created a successful safe ending to a very dangerous situation. Fire protection is never really appreciated until it is needed. Training, preparedness and support payoff in our communities investment.