Wild fires up, fire fighting equipment down - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Wild fires up, fire fighting equipment down

April 3, 2007

Berrien County - The Georgia Forestry Commission in Berrien County protects 300,000 acres from wild fires, and an extremely dry spring is keeping them hard at work.

"Just right now in my county I have 110 fires and usually this time of year I don't have but 60 so I've about doubled my fires," says Chief Ranger Senior Travis Watson of the Georgia Forestry Commission in Berrien County.

The tractor plow is their secret weapon in controlling those fires.  "It saves lives, land, and property. It's a valuable resource."

In years past, private industries had this equipment too and helped out when fire officials needed a hand.

But recently, all that's changed.  "Now a days, industries have sold out to private individuals, and they've cut back on their fire fighting equipment," he says.

Putting the burden of fighting forest fires squarely on the shoulders of foresters.

Langdale Industries in Lowndes County has some equipment and will send it out to surrounding counties when in need. But many areas in South Georgia aren't so lucky.  "They don't have the ability or resources to call some private company like that for help on a large wild fire."

But when that call comes, the forestry commission will respond, regardless of their equipment or lack there of.  "We're here to protect the lands, private individuals, state lands, that's what we're here for, and we're going to continue to do that," Watson says.

The Forestry Commission is asking state leaders for money to buy additional fire fighting equipment.

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