Officials said Tuesday that a fire covering several acres in northwest Douglas County has been brought under control, but it could take a month before the flames are completely extinguished.
The fire started on private property sometime Monday at High Point Road and Highway 61 north of downtown Villa Rica and the Mirror Lake community.
Fire Department Deputy Chief Miles Allen said the main concern for the surrounding areas remained smoke from the fire, which he said covers about a mile and a half to two miles.
Allen called the property where the fire occurred “a logging area” with “logs and logs” that the homeowner distributes to local businesses.
“There’s a lot of smoke,” Allen said during a press conference on Tuesday. “There are no major problems with the structures, with the people in the vicinity. It is only now we are dealing with the smoke problem. Now there are no injuries. No one was hurt. The owner of the house, he is fine and well.”
Van Roberts, the DCFD’s battalion commander, said the fire was “contained,” and Allen said none of the nearby properties were in danger from the fire itself.
Fire Chief Roderick Jolevette said the cause of the fire was still under investigation. The fire department’s deputy chief, Eric Phillips, said authorities believe the fire may have been caused by an unauthorized arson. A state-mandated burning ban during the summer is in effect in Douglas and many other Georgia counties.
The Georgia Forest Commission, Department of Environmental Protection, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County Emergency Management Agency and Douglas County E-911 are all involved in efforts to contain the fire, which officials are calling the High Point Incident.
A total of four acres on the property have been affected, said Austin Rowland, District 1 fire manager with the Georgia Forest Commission.
Rowland said the Forestry Commission was on the scene Monday night until about 7 a.m. Tuesday and that the commission’s main concern was smoke getting into main roads and nearby homes.
“The weather patterns for the next couple of days look like smoke has to go up and out of there,” Roland said.
Roland said there was a lot of hardwood that fueled the fire.
“From my experience, I can say we should probably look at this happening for a month,” he said.
DCSO Lt. John Jewell said the mayor’s office is supporting other agencies involved. He said the mayor’s office brought in his drone to get aerial photos of the fire department for use in containing the fire.
Jewell noted that due to the fire’s proximity to Interstate 20, smoke affecting highway traffic is a concern and that the mayor’s office will work with the state if necessary.
Rowland said the Forestry Commission may want to bring in tractors and bulldozers if the fire starts to burn “to keep it hot and keep the smoke rising and not catching on the highways.”
So far, smoke billows in the air and his agency doesn’t have any immediate concerns, said Jim Cooley, area operations manager for the Environmental Protection Division.
“It’s basically particulate matter from smoke that we should be a cause for concern,” he said. “Overall, these are not acute concerns (for now) from a health perspective.”
Cooley said EPD will monitor the fire and will work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others to set up air monitoring if needed.
With temperatures in the 90s this week, Jolivet and others said the heat was a concern for firefighters.
Roberts said the fire department rotates firefighters every two hours. He said an engine and two or three firefighters would be on site at all times.
Allen said the fire department makes sure all firefighters have plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energetic.
Roberts pointed out that the fire trucks are equipped with air conditioners.
Allen said the fire department is “constantly monitoring” the condition of all workers at the site.