Above: Smoke from the nearby rock mountain wildfire hangs over Ramah Darom on the afternoon of Nov. 26 (photo by Jerry Cohen).
The Rock Mountain wildfire a half-mile north of Camp Ramah Darom in Rabun County is more than 50 percent contained, thanks in part to 2 inches of overnight rain that began falling Monday, Nov. 28 — the first precipitation in the area in 52 days.
Ramah is hosting about 200 firefighters. As of Tuesday, Nov. 29, the fire had spread to 24,725 acres in Rabun County, and more than 660 people were working to contain it.
“This rain won’t stop the drought or reduce fire danger over time, but in the short term it has definitely stopped fire movement,” said Kale Casey, information officer for the Rabun County Emergency Management Agency. “What the residents need to know is that nobody was evacuated during the burnout operations, no structures were damaged, no firefighters were injured, and now we have the rain, which gives us a chance to catch our breath and wait for the sun to come out.”
A full containment line has been set up around the fire, but fully extinguishing the blaze will take at least a few more weeks, he said. Dead and fire-weakened trees that could blow over from strong gusts remain a danger to firefighting crews.
The Rock Mountain wildfire began Nov. 9 and spread mostly by burning fallen leaves. Since Nov. 15, Ramah Darom has served as an unofficial base camp for many of the wildland firefighters, who have come from as far away as Colorado and Oregon.
“I cannot overstress how important the camp has been to our firefighters,” Casey said. “In this part of the country you just don’t set up fire camps with tents for numerous safety reasons. Inside lodging is the norm here. Having a camp with those incredible facilities and staff and a location that close to the fire line reducing travel has been unbelievable.”
Fire managers plan to have a strong presence in Rabun County for months to deal with the containment and aftermath of the wildfire.
The fire near Ramah Darom is just one of many blazing in North Georgia and surrounding states, including a fire that whipped through Gatlinburg, Tenn., about the time rain was bringing relief to Rabun County.
More than 6,000 firefighters from Alaska to Maine have joined forces with local, state and federal agencies to battle wildfires in six Southeastern states.