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Wildfire threat high for holiday
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As raging fires burn in south Georgia and drought continues throughout the state, Georgians are being urged to take extra steps for safety this Fourth of July holiday.

“Conditions are very, very dry all over Georgia,” said Alan Dozier, chief of protection for the Georgia Forestry Commission. “That’s a big concern as people bring out fireworks to celebrate the Fourth.”

Dozier said most of the Georgia Forestry Commission’s forest rangers from throughout the state have been deployed to the south Georgia fires and only skeleton crews remain in many Georgia counties.

“Permits for outdoor burning are not being issued, and we certainly discourage use of fireworks unless organized and supervised by local officials,” Dozier said.

Wildfires have blackened more than 135,000 acres of forestland in Georgia since March, with eight fatalities, $100 million in timber losses and $15 million in property losses attributed to wildfire.

Gov. Nathan Deal has declared states of emergency in Charlton and Ware counties due to large wildfires. To date in 2011, fires have burned 75 percent more acres than Georgia’s five year average, and the number of fires is 35 percent higher than the five year average.

Dozier also urged Georgians to be vigilant about other outdoor activities involving fire, such as backyard grills, campfires, cigarettes, and even over-heated lawn equipment, all of which are capable of causing fires that can flare up and spread quickly. Farm activities are especially susceptible to fire occurrence during these unusual dry conditions, Dozier said.

“Summer and the Fourth of July holiday are synonymous with fun,” said Dozier. “This year, safety precautions have to be a big part of that picture. With everybody’s help, we can prevent the tragedy of wildfire and enjoy this special time of year.”

For more information about current fire conditions, preventing wildfire and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit