Spalding County fire fighters and specialists with the Georgia Forestry Commission are keeping an eye on 150 acres of land just over the Fayette County border that caught fire midday Monday and took most of the remainder of the day to completely contain.
Located about a mile from the southern tip of Fayette County and less than four miles from Downtown Brooks, the fire started in a hay field along West Ellis Road between the Moon Road and Vaughn Road intersections. According to Georgia Forestry Commission Wildland Fire Specialist Ken Parker, the land owner was using a hay baler when sparks ignited some very dry hay. He said the fire spread much more quickly than normal because of windy conditions and extremely low relative humidity.
“It was the driest part of the day,” Parker said. “Things are so dry right now, it doesn’t take much to start a fire.”
Parker also noted that the land owner had been hay baling on Sunday as well, and that the same thing happened that day, but only about five acres were involved in that fire. Parker said it is a somewhat normal occurrence to have fires break out in hay fields, but conditions are so dry now that what would have been normally a small fire can grow really big really quick.
Fayette County Deputy Fire Chief Tom Bartlett said Spalding County had to scramble several vehicles to Monday’s wildfire, which meant Fayette County fire vehicles were placed on standby to possibly respond into that part of Spalding County in the case of any house fires, serious vehicle accidents, or those sorts of incidents.
Bartlett said he wasn’t so concerned about the wildfire spreading toward Fayette, especially as winds were moving in the opposite direction.
Parker said his agency sent two dozers and an airplane to the scene, and the strategy was to create breaks to contain the fire and even point it toward a creek that would serve as a natural break. He said some embers did blow over the creek and spread into a small area there, but basically the fire was contained at that border.
At risk, according to Parker, were six structures, including homes, in the immediate path of the fire. A little further away, though not much, is the Cedar Ridge Airport, which is a private landing strip bordered on both sides by homes and hangars.
As firefighters and forestry specialists succeeded in containing the blaze, there were no structure fires.
One of the additional challenges on Monday, said Parker, was that a large area of downed and dead trees had caught fire, making it difficult for dozers to make breaks in that area. He said the trees were old tornado damage that had not been cleaned up.
Bartlett praised the Georgia Forestry Commission specialists who worked Monday’s fire. He said Fayette County and every Georgia county depends on these specialists to fight fires in forested areas. He said counties and cities typically have equipment meant to fight urban and suburban fires, but he said Fayette County has only one pumper truck meant to go off-road.
Bartlett noted that Fayette County pays money to the Georgia Forestry Commission budget each year to support those fire fighting functions.