GAINESVILLE, Ga. – Firefighting teams worked against strong winds and dry conditions yesterday to control wildfires that have burned more than 2,100 acres (850 hectares) of forest in the Appalachian foothills of north Georgia. A 13-mile (21-km) section of the Appalachian Trail, a popular path for hikers, was closed because of the fires, burning since Saturday, which U.S. Forest Service officials described as “man-caused,” either set intentionally or by accident.
Forest Service spokeswoman Linda Johnson said strong northwesterly winds and dry forest conditions were hampering firefighting efforts in the federally designated wilderness.
“We’re not seeing any rain in the forecast for the next several days. That is definitely a major concern to us here,” Johnson said.
More than 240 firefighters were working against the blazes in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
Forest Service district manager Dennis Daniel said fires would be set around the perimeter of the wildfires in an attempt to contain them.
“We will start a backing fire and actually set fire to the control lines and let it back down into the main fire,” Daniel said at a news conference.
The Appalachian Trail was closed about 80 miles (130 km) north of Atlanta, between Woody Gap and Neels Gap. The trail is a 2,100-mile (3,380-km) footpath that extends from Georgia to Maine.
Four new, smaller fires also emerged in nearby Gilmer County Monday night. Daniel said the largest had consumed about 75 acres (30 hectares).
“The largest one at this time began on private land and was started from a barn that caught on fire,” Daniel said.