A brush fire continues to spread across the Lookout Mountain ridge in Dade County and has consumed 183 acres as of Monday, Nov. 7.
The fire originated from a campfire Friday morning on Nov. 4 and quickly spread across 80 acres, encouraged by the low humidity and windy and dry conditions in the afternoon, said Patricia Stockett of the Georgia Forestry Commission. Stockett said the fire is being monitored, and while there is no rapid spread, the fire is slowly backing down the mountain in an area inaccessible to crews and equipment.
Containment lines have been installed around all structures both at the top and at the base of the mountain. No evacuations orders have been issued and all local residents remained at home. When asked whether the fire could travel towards the college and residential area, Stockett said the direction of the fire will be dictated by the prevailing winds and available fuel. The Georgia Forestry Commission Crews are continuously monitoring the fire’s behavior and the weather, and are ready to act if changes occur. Stockett warned locals to be mindful of the smoke produced by the Lookout fire and several other fires in Alabama and Tennessee.
Downtown Chattanooga was hazy and smoky as of Wednesday morning. Air quality was moderate, according to a weather report from ABC News Channel 9, but breezes are expected to continue blowing smoke away from downtown and to the southeast. Windy conditions and low humidity will increase fire danger in the area.
Westboro and Trenton Fire Departments as well as Georgia Forestry worked to secure houses along the ridge in case the fire traveled in their direction. Local law enforcement and Highway Patrol were also on the scene Saturday to direct traffic and close 189/Scenic Highway from Burkhalter Gap South to the 911/cell tower due to unsafe conditions created by the fire. The road was reopened on Sunday.
Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding also closed Saturday Nov. 6 on a Do Not Fly advisory because of helicopters in the area, said a staffer there. None of their structures were affected by the fire and they reopened on Sunday as soon as conditions were safe.
Safety and Security Coordinator Daniel Dupree said of Covenant’s safety that, “The campus would be promptly notified if there was a need for information or a level of warning to be issued.”
The Safety and Security Office notified the student body last week about the statewide burn ban and cautioned students to the seriousness of the susceptible fire conditions. Dupree reminds Covenant that, “As responsible community members, we should police ourselves and discourage others from any unwise activity. Specifically concerning campus safety responses, it is important that students follow directions provided in the handbooks, campus announcements, and follow the directions given by their RA and RD.” Dupree also asked that on-campus students remember to keep halls clear in the event of an emergency situation to prevent a “life-safety issue for both students and emergency responders.”
Todd Gann, fire & police chief of Lookout Mountain, GA, affirmed there is an evacuation plan if a fire spreads or occurs close to Covenant’s end of the mountain. Gann said threatened residents would be evacuated from their homes well before the fire would get close. When asked about an emergency notification system, Gann said, “There is no city wide official notification system,” but that the Fire/Police Department of Lookout Mountain would go door-to-door to notify residents.
Peter Codington (‘19) was watching the sunset near the hang gliding vista when the fire reached the top of the mountain Friday evening. “A group of about 10 of us were watching the sunset,” said Codington. “As we drove up we saw billows of smoke coming up from the west side of the mountain, down below. The smoke was getting bigger and bigger, so we moved to the south to watch the sunset from a better spot. Smoke got bigger and then the flames came up not too far below the road. A few girls in the group had already called the cops before we got there. We passed fire trucks as they left.”
The Lookout Mountain fire is not out yet. Local residents are advised to abide by the statewide burn ban, especially as conditions worsen without the promise of rain.
Contributed Reporting by Zach Jones
Last Updated November 10