Category: Good to Know

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Good to Know

Fire in the Mountains

Days of relentless winds require vigilance in March. Spring fires flare up just as ground fuel dries out, and folks decide it’s time to burn away winter’s brittle debris. Although the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) advises against outdoor burning in humidity lower than 35 percent or in winds higher than 10 mph, on Sunday afternoon a few miles toward town from us a burn became of one of Georgia’s more than 3,500 annual wildfires. Quickly contained, it soon turned black on the wildfire map, then marked “mopped up.” This site is informed by the GFC’s dispatch system, FIResponse. Try it at

Seeing a helicopter racing above the forests with that enormous water bucket dangling below is a chilling sight—both for the threat level it represents, and the awe we feel watching those bringing the fighting to contain it. These teams have already staunched several big fires this year including a dangerous outbreak on Tray Mountain earlier this month that seared through ten acres on its way up. How was the weather? This happened on a Class 5 Fire Danger Day—the highest warning level.

Fires always sprint for the ridgetops, even without wind. A small gust, a moment of inattention, a hose too short—lots of factors can lead to disaster for many people and so much property. Towns County communities embraced the FireWise program over ten years ago and those measures are lifesavers.

At, the home ignition zones are described in detail. “Homeowners are advised to move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.”

Within five to thirty feet from the furthest exterior point of the home’s landscaping/hardscaping, they suggest: clearing vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks; creating fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks; keeping lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches; removing ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns; and pruning trees up to six to ten feet from the ground; for shorter trees do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height. Further advice on the site explains additional zones and recommendations.

Our GFC’s burning guidelines emphasize: observing safe weather conditions; keeping 25 feet between your fire and woodlands; 50 feet between the fire and structures; burning during daylight hours only; continuously tending the fire until completely extinguished; and a long-enough pressurized water-hose, a shovel and rake ready to manage the fire. And never, ever use flammable liquids to start a fire. [That stunt may have its own YouTube horror channel.] When burning that yard debris, start downwind with a small pile, adding to it as it burns down—then douse the site thoroughly. I’d like to add a reminder here, fires are sneaky. Make sure those embers aren’t just playing dead.

Last July the burn permitting laws in Georgia changed and residents are no longer required to secure permits for backyard burning—described in GA Senate Bill 119, GA code section 12-6-90 as “hand-piled natural debris.” Most burn projects, including agricultural, or land clearing for commercial and residential burns still require permits, so be sure to check with your area Ranger or local agency. Laws still prevent burning household garbage and man-made waste products, as well as moving material from one location to another for burning; and seasonal local burn bans may be in effect. Check for info.

With this warm weather trees will be greening soon, chasing fire season away for a few months. Winds have dropped today, and rain is expected in the early hours Thursday morning. Hope for a soaking!



Local Rangers:

Blake Melton
1556 Pat Colwell Rd  Blairsville  GA   30512 706-781-2398

Mason Turner
25 Ellington Rd.  Ellijay  GA  30540 706-635-2363

Wesley Sisk
159 Crown Mountain Dr. Dahlonega  30533 706-867-2898

Michael Wood
3997 Toccoa Highway Clarksville GA 30523 706-754-2354

Good to Know

Warping the Woodland Food Chain

[One side of a conversation that could have happened in waaay too many area homes.]

Aww, cute! All those chipmunks are eating the seeds that fall from the birdfeeder. Wait! Where’s the birdfeeder?

Oh, no, the wrought iron feeder pole is bent in half. The bear that stole the other feeder is back. He’s been ripping up the retaining wall drains again, too. Bummer! We quit sprinkling corn for the turkeys after that bobcat family turned them into fast food. Awful, awful.

At least the bobcats aren’t bothering the deer herd that has expanded from three to sixteen since we started feeding them. Sure hope that wasn’t one of ours that the neighbor hit last night. At least it didn’t go through his windshield.

And what about all those young groundhogs on the security video. Cute, huh?

 Nooo, I’ve never even heard of wood rats! Why aren’t the coyotes catching those instead of squirrels? Although we could do with fewer since they keep invading the attic along with the racoons. I swear one of them brought over a possum to see his place last week.

No, the whole house is mothball-scented already. Anyway, aren’t those toxic?

Oh, but Darling, if I don’t toss dinner scraps off the deck for the bears the garbage begins to really smell up the garage and you know that draws mice in.

Well, yes! I’m seeing a lot more snakes this year, too. You’ve said it’s because the birdfeeder also feeds rodents, but—

ME!?!? Raising mice? Inviting in squirrels? Snakes? What? How am I going to get a bear killed?

Yes, I suppose I do want them to run away from me rather than. . .

“Nuisance” bears? Taken where? Or, what?

 Oh, not that.

Would you get us some of the jalapeno-sauced bird seed then? And I’ll start freezing any smelly scraps til garbage day.

Not funny! I never thought of it as killing them with kindness. I meant to share with our furry neighbors. You get the peppery bird seed; I’ll call that wildlife wrangler for the noise in the attic. And the snakes. Are mice wildlife?

Good to Know

Always Changing

As 2020 ended, I planned to start a blog about the sweetness of life in the North Georgia Mountains. Seemed simple enough, but of course, life can be complicated no matter where we are. And depending on our disposition, we can often make things a little harder than they would have been if we could just stay out of our own way.

Work distractions and other factors soon persuaded me to default to the reporter perspective for the blog, but that required interaction that was more limited than I anticipated. Now it seems we may be distancing again. After some personal chaos over the last few months, I’m pushing area spectating aside and going back to the original concept–knowing now that savoring the sweetness is essential–and this space was always intended for just that. Time to learn WordPress.

And rather than create more clutter in the web-osphere, There will be a page tagged on for a side project, a bit of fiction sharing my appreciation for good people, mixed with a little intrigue and adventure, largely staged amid these glorious North Georgia Mountains. It’s called Always, Always Choose Again.