Southern Fires Cause Trail Closures

A series of forest fires are spreading rapidly across the Southeastern U.S., affecting parts of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Currently, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has issued closures for the miles between Dick’s Creek Gap/US76 (mile 69.9) in Georgia and the Nantahala River/US19/US74 (mile 137.1) in North Carolina.

The ATC asks those hiking in the southern corridor to respect the closures for their own safety and the safety of rescue personnel. They add that any south-bounders or flip-floppers who circumvent the blazes will still be considered thru-hikers and may apply for 2,000-miler status.

Severe drought has caused the southern forests to become uncharacteristically dry, and high winds have fanned smaller blazes into wild infernos. Due to this, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has issued a campfire ban from North Carolina to Georgia; they also ask that hikers refrain from smoking or lighting fires of any kind until further notice.

According to the U.S. Forest Service and the AP, more than 5,000 firefighters are attempting to control the flames, some of which have been burning for over a week. Several Appalachian communities have been forced to evacuate, and even more are under smoke advisory.

Recent arrests have indicated that multiple regional fires are the result of arson. At press time, none of the arsonists are reported to be thru-hikers or persons connected to the Appalachian Trail.

For members of the trail community who are concerned and wish to provide support, please contact the Appalachian Trail Conservancy at [email protected]. Stay tuned for volunteer opportunities and ways to be involved in the protection and preservation of the Appalachian Trail.

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