Wildfires Taking Toll On Georgia Forestry

If there's a wildfire anywhere in Georgia, Georgia Forestry is there.  Ty Hayman with Georgia Forestry said, "It's been extremely rough."

Hayman and many others have been working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week battling fires; something they're used to, just not this time of year.  "Our normal fire season ends mid March; that's when we start receiving those rains, but we never received them," said Hayman.

Dozens of fires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres across Georgia. The men and women fighting the fires are burnt too, burnt out. "You start making mistakes. Mistakes can get people hurt or killed," said Hayman.

"The smoke, the heat it gets to you, especially your eyes. The smoke could kill you," said firefighter Jeffrey Hughes.

It's more than just the physical work taking its toll. Mentally, it's just as difficult. Crews are away from their homes and families for long periods of time. "I've got a 16 month old baby girl. She's at the stage where she's learning how to talk," said Hayman.

Even though he stays in touch with his family, it's not the same as being there. "When you are away down in Waycross and you call home it can be tough to sit there and see what you're missing," said Hayman.

On top of firefighters being mentally and physically exhausted, their equipment is taking a beating. "During a normal fire season we may put 100 hours on a tractor, during the whole season. Over the last two to three weeks we've put over 100 hours on the tractors. That's not normal wear and tear," said Hayman.

However, they've had no time to maintain the machines.  "Sometimes we're running them day and night," said Hayman.

Now all they can do is hope the rain we usually get in April, comes now.

The rain we got earlier this week did help get the Pembroke fire under control.  There are just a few hot spots left and crews are expecting to have them out by tomorrow.

Georgia Forestry also wants to let people know they have lifted the burn ban so if you see smoke, don't be alarmed.

Reported by: Christy Hutchings, chutchings@wtoc.com