UPDATE: Lookout Mtn. residents return home after fire-forced eva - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

WILDFIRE WATCH

UPDATE: Lookout Mtn. residents return home after fire-forced evacuation

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DADE COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Residents of the Lookout Highlands neighborhood in Dade County returned to their homes on Wednesday. They were evacuated on Sunday.

The fire that forced their evacuation burned some 1,600 acres and is now 15% contained. 

Packing their bags into the car, Pep and Ann Grimes were ready to go home on Wednesday.

“I couldn’t seem to keep the recliner totally flat, so it’ll be nice to be back in our bed tonight," Ann Grimes, a Lookout Highlands neighbor said.

They spent three nights in their real estate office across the street from the neighborhood.

“Been surreal knowing all that’s been going on here. This whole week has almost been a blur. You can’t keep up with the days," Pep Grimes, her husband said.

The couple didn’t know what to expect as they drove through the Lookout Highlands gate.

Like dozens of others in their neighborhood, they were evacuated on Sunday.

“It’s just nice to know that we have a home to come home to," Grimes said.

More at ease after seeing their home, Grimes and his wife showed us one of their favorite spots in the neighborhood, the lake.

They’re grateful for the long hours firefighters have put in to protect this hidden treasure.

“When you stand down here at the lake, you can just see why we love it, why we want to be here," Grimes said.

Georgia Forestry Commission crews said the process for containing and extinguishing the wildfire will be a gradual one.

“Just because of the terrain and our manpower. We don’t want to jump too far ahead and give folks a false sense of security from where we’re at with this fire," Seth Pierce with the Georgia Forestry Commission said.

They’re using a water tank and hose to keep the fire at bay.

Extra sets of eyes and hands are also on the way to help.

Crews are asking people returning home to stay alert.

“Part of the thought process on that was having more eyes in here to where folks could check around their own homes and notice if there’s starting to be some rekindles or something like that," Pierce said.

Neighbors don’t mind since they know their piece of paradise could still be in harm’s way.

“There’s still going to be a danger as long as we don’t have rain. Until we have a good, good, good soaking rain, we’re all going to have to be very aware," Grimes said.

The wildfire is expected to reach 3,200 acres.

Georgia Forestry Commission crews said they’re stretched thin across the state, so they’re urging people to not do anything that could start a fire.


PREVIOUS STORY: Officials didn't want to take any chances, so neighbors in the Lookout Highlands subdivision had to pack up their belongings and stuff them into suitcases in a matter of minutes.

"It just is a very odd feeling. You just don't really know what to take," Ann Grimes, one of the neighbors who had to be evacuated said.

Grimes and her husband took 30 minutes to grab enough clothes and food to last them for a few days. Beyond that, they would need to go back to their neighborhood that's been evacuated.

They're one of the lucky ones who didn't have to travel far to find shelter. The couple owns a real state business across the street from the subdivision.

"The only thing we lack is a shower. So, we had everything else and we even put in real plates and silverware, so we weren't eating on paper and plastic," Grimes said.

What they call their second home has become a meeting spot for neighbors to talk.

Harry Abell is part of the neighborhood watch group and helped tell people they needed to leave.

He admitted he was skeptical at first.

"I was the one that said I'm not leaving. I'm going to protect my house. Then as we were driving around telling other people you need to leave, it dawned on me that if something happened i would try to deal with it. I'm not prepared to deal with it," Harry Abell, another Lookout Highlands neighbor said.

Firefighters are prepared to deal with it.

The largest fire on Lookout Mountain has burned more than 1,300 acres and it's expected to grow to 3,200 acres.

Crews don't expect the flames to reach around 60 homes inside the lookout highlands neighborhood.

They're using the evacuation as a way to protect people's livelihoods and give firefighters more elbow room to work.

Concerns are still out there.

"If you think you might lose your home, that's disturbing especially for old people like me. That's things i worked for all my life. I'd like to keep it," Abell said.

Abell and his wife packed some of their most important items including their wills, legal documents, computers, cell phones, medicines, and some clothes.

They're staying with friends nearby.

"This is once in a lifetime. In my 71 years, I've never done this before. I hope I never do it again," Abell said.

Neighbors hope their homes will stay safe.

"We're just not physically prepared to clear out the house," Grimes said.

On Monday, the Tatum Gulf fire was 10% contained. Right now, neighbors haven't been given a clear timeline of when they could possibly return home.

The New Salem Community Center and Trenton United Methodist Church are open as shelters for anyone who may need it.


A Lookout Mountain gated community has been evacuated due to the Tatum Gulf wildfire. 

Georgia Forestry Commission told residents that live in the Lookout Highlands neighborhood located on Highway 157 they had to be out of their homes by 3:45 p.m. Sunday. 

Officials said the evacuation is to help firefighters protect their homes, but they do not predict structural damage. 

Trenton United Methodist Church and New Salem Community Center are open as shelters.

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