Catoosa County officials concerned of debris fires - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Catoosa County officials concerned of debris fires

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CATOOSA COUNTY, GA. (WRCB) -- Gusty winds can make it nearly impossible to stop thousands of storm debris acres from burning.

The area off Cherokee Valley Road in Catoosa County is the hot spot on the county's radar if someone is careless.

"Much of the debris is on the ground. It just multiplies your problem. If a burn does begin, it grows and makes it harder to fight," says County Manager Mike Helton.

Helton worries that people aren't taking the threat of a wildfire seriously enough.

It's the same area that lost eight lives in the deadly tornado's last year, and Helton is trying to avoid another tragedy. 

"It's a catastrophe for a lack of a better word," says Helton. "If a fire caught on to that lumber out there, it could be harsh."

Right now the county is reviewing evacuation plans and emergency shelters if the worst comes, which was almost the case in February when an illegal burn caused nearly 50 acres to go up in flames.

Fire Chief Chuck Nichols says, "It happens more frequently than you realize."

Nichols looks at the situation more closely.

Sure, the main roadways are open, but getting to the debris is not so easy.

The county and the state will carve more paths to the dry wood and attack a fire head on.

The rigid landscape makes stopping a fire spread impossible in some areas.

On a day like Monday where the conditions are dry and the wind gusts are nearly 30 mph, the Fire Chief says, rotted wood can catch fire and spread in a matter of minutes.

Nichols says Mother Nature plays a small part, but recklessness is the culprit.

Most times people are burning illegally.

That disregard can cause a headache, if not worse, for firefighters and neighbors.

In the case of any wildfire, Nichols says you need to have an evacuation plan in place.

You can only burn if you have an approved burn permit.

Starting May 1, the burn ban takes effect in Georgia.

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