Georgia wildfires contained, drought persists despite rain

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Georgia wildfires contained, drought persists despite rain

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November 16, 2016, Tate City: A wall of smoke fills the air while a helicopter drops water on Pot Gap Ridge battling against the Rock Mountain Fire as it approaches homes on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, in Tate City. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Wildfires that devoured tens of thousands of acres in North Georgia are now completely contained, officials said Tuesday.

The U.S. Forest Service said all roads, trails and areas previously closed due to fires are now reopen to public use, including the Appalachian Trail. Visitors are encouraged to use caution.

“Thanks to the hard work of firefighters and the recent rains, all wildfires on the national forest are contained and closed areas are now open for public use and enjoyment,” said Chattahoochee National Forest Supervisor Betty Jewett.

Wildfires have burned an estimated 42,000 acres of the national forest since October 1. The Rough Ridge Fire, burning in the Cohutta Wilderness area, ignited from a lightning strike. The Rock Mountain Fire, west of Clayton, is believed to be the work of an arsonist.

The fires were fueled by a severe drought throughout the Southeast. Gov. Nathan Deal has put in place mandatory watering restrictions in 52 counties throughout metro Atlanta and North Georgia to combat the dry conditions.

Even with recent rains, Georgia’s national forests remain in drought status. Periods of increased fire danger will likely continue to occur, especially with dry winds.

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