During its November meeting, the Long County Commission received a report from Georgia Forestry Commission Long/Liberty County Chief Ranger David Duke, who predicted that 2011 will end up being the second-worst year on record for acres burned. In Long County, 115 fires cropped up and more than 7,000 acres were destroyed.
Ninety-one percent of Long County is forest land, Duke said, and most of the fires that broke out this year can be attributed to burning debris. The chief ranger also said the weather and dry conditions in the area contributed to the outbreak of blazes. Duke said that projections for the coming year also look bad, and dry conditions are expected to continue through the spring with above-average temperatures and low precipitation. Though the annual projections don’t look promising, Duke said his agency will continue to protect the county.
“We’re going to do whatever we have to do to put fires out,” he said.
The ranger said that Liberty and Long counties have six tractor operators — three in each county. When this year’s fires were at their peak, Duke’s unit assisted county residents and helped to plow more than 160 miles of fire breaks for 50 landowners. He said the Long County tower had a lookout person posted, keeping watch over the land during the day, and air patrol surveyed the county as needed.
Duke said burn permits in the county are approved on a day-to-day basis depending upon weather conditions.
Even though Long County saw more than its fair share of blazes this year, Duke said that he and other members of the Georgia Forestry Commission are thankful for the help that they received from the commission, the Ludowici/Long County Volunteer Fire Department, local churches, several area charitable organizations and the community as a whole.
Later in the meeting, Long County Veterans Memorial Committee Chairman Marvin DeLoach told commissioners that Long County’s Veterans Day celebration is set for Nov. 11 at Veterans Field. The ceremony will feature a guest speaker, entertainment and a veterans-recognition segment. Any World War II veteran who attends the event will be specially honored. Currently, DeLoach said, Long County WWII vets Johnny L. Morgan, Willie Milton, Robert Chatman, Nathaniel Carter, John Baker and Ellis “Pete” Gordon are planning to attend.
Shaw told the commission that the Wilkerson Road project is about 50 percent complete and ahead of schedule. The project may be completed under budget, he said, and depending on weather conditions, it should be finished by Feb. 1.
Commissioner Cliff DeLoach said the road entering the recreation complex and several parking spaces soon will be resurfaced. The final phase of ongoing work at the recreation park will be completed when the county receives its final brigade remediation funding payment.
Chairman Bobby Walker said the commission is working hard to keep the mil rate the same for the upcoming year despite a cut in revenue from land lost to the federal government. He said the commission is working on several options to make up for land revenue lost to the Townsend Bombing Range expansion project.
In other news, the commission:
• Reappointed C.W. Howard to the county’s forestry board.
• Appointed James Wasden to the tax assessors’ board and reappointed Gene Shaw, Richard Long and Jimmy Howard.