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The massive Cohutta Wilderness Fire . . . A dirty little secret that the news media is not telling you!

The massive Cohutta Wilderness Fire . . . A dirty little secret that the news media is not telling you!

The United States Forest Service intentionally allowed the Cohutta Wilderness Fire to burn out of control!

As of today (updated 11/17/2016) the Rough Ridge Fire in the Cohutta National Wilderness Area of North-Central Georgia and Southeast Tennessee has consumed over 24,800 acres of pristine Appalachian forest land.  It is now expected to completely devastate the entire wilderness area, during the next few weeks.  Having begun on October 16, 2016, it is the largest of several dozen fires now burning in the Southern Appalachians. The Rock Mountain Fire in Northeast Georgia has now burned over 5,500 acres.  The Boteler Fire in North Carolina has now burned over 14,000 acres, while the Tellico Fire in North Carolina has burned over 9,000 acres.

Smoke from these fires are producing a suffocating, noxious smog that is making life miserable for the people in Georgia, eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina and northeastern Alabama.  The smoke is generally moving southward because of prevailing winds.  On some days the plumes of smoke reach as far south as Florida.

Television and newspaper reporters are telling the public that although most of the big fires in the Southeast are burning out of control, thousands of firefighters and National Guardsmen are valiantly fighting all the fires.   There is no doubt about the bravery of the firefighters and National Guardsmen, but the truth about how these fires got out of control is another matter.  You will be astonished what is actually going on.

Who Dunnit?

All federal and state government sources are stating that the Rough Ridge Fire in the Cohutta Wilderness Area was started by lightning on October 16, 2016 at around 3:00 PM.  We have not had any significant rain here in the Georgia Mountains since early August.  The skies have been blue most of the time for four months.  How could a thunderstorm started a fire on that date?  Apparently no reporters fact checked that statement. 

I accessed the weather radar scan for the afternoon of October 16, 2016.  The skies over the Cohutta Wilderness Area were clear all afternoon on the radar screen and there were no thunderstorms recorded by the National Weather Service that day. The editor of a newspaper in a nearby town told me on the phone that he did not observe any thunderstorms that day and that the sky was clear that afternoon. 

A reader wrote us that she lived near Rough Ridge and stated that there was a brief storm that lasted about 15 minutes on the afternoon of October 16.  I didn’t know that anyone lived near Rough Ridge, but who knows?  Micro-weather can vary considerably in the Appalachians. Another reader immediately wrote us that the original forest fires in Georgia and North Carolina during mid-October were intentionally started by US Forest Service personnel.  According to him the small control fires jumped their boundaries and quickly got out of control.  Until crews were brought in from other parts of the country,  the US Forest Service offices in western North Carolina and North Georgia lacked the manpower to fight them.  They used the excuse of “letting Mother Nature do her thing” to cover up gross incompetence.

There is no doubt that hundreds of fires in the Southern Appalachians have been started by arsonists . . . domestic terrorists . . . in November 2016.  On some days, the number of fires have overwhelmed the thousands of firefighters and National Guardsmen in the region now attacking the monster fires.

No matter who started the fire in the Cohutta Mountains,  I was curious as to why the US Forest Service didn’t immediately put the fire out . . . knowing that the forests are so dangerously dry right now. In order to get background information on the Cohutta Wilderness Area, I looked it up in Wikipedia.  Around November 14, 2016 a US Forest Service Public Relations Officer dutifully inserted the following paragraph in Wikipedia:

“The Rough Ridge wildfire began on October 16, 2016 with a lightning strike. Due to drought conditions the wildfire rapidly expanded to over 17,000 acres and is expected to engulf the entire wilderness. One of the current management objectives is to allow the fire to burn, fulfilling it’s natural ecological goal, with firefighters only intervening to save private property. The National Forest Service has blocked all traffic into the Cohutta Wilderness Area through January 1, 2017.”

Say what?   The US Forest Service intentionally did not fight the forest fires in the Cohutta, Nantahala and Rabun National Wilderness Areas until they got so far out of control that they had to send in large fire-fighting units to prevent the fires from spreading to private property.  The USFS fully intends to let the fires completely gut the national wilderness areas.

That’s why there was no publicity for three weeks

november2016-firesThe people living outside the immediate areas of these massive fires, knew nothing about what was going on until the evening of November 6, 2016 when the People of One Fire published an article.  Earlier in the day, I had driven up to the northern edge of Georgia to study some archaeological sites, when I noticed three huge plumes of smoke rising up from a mountain in North Carolina.  I drove up to the top of Brasstown Bald Mountain in Georgia and was astonished to see a visage of Hell.  Massive plumes of smoke were rising from throughout the Southern Highlands and yet no one in the regional or national media had mentioned the situation.  Why?

Finally, by midweek, the Atlanta TV stations couldn’t ignore the smoke.  When they publicized the devastation, the national media picked it up . . .  but not one reporter asked, “Why did the US Forest Service allow the fires in the National Wilderness Areas in Georgia and North Carolina burn for weeks, until they were too large to control and were threatening homes?  

To read the article in POOF, when I first became aware of the Appalachian forest fires, go to:    FIRST VIEW OF FIRES

Now you know!

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Now i suppose all the private property owners will have to move into towns.

    Go figure.

    • I just spoke to the editor of the newspaper in Blue Ridge, GA. He said that the US Forest Service told him the same thing today. He also confirmed that the skies were blue when the US Forest Service says lightning started the fire. It was an arson fire and should have been put out immediately.


    I live very close to where the Rough Ridge fire is, and there was indeed a short thunderstorm on October 16! It only lasted for 15 minutes. There was thunder and lightning followed by about a 10 minute shower. My boss and I were outside at the time and both were amazed that it was actually raining. As the lightning was flashing he stated, “This is not good! It could very easily start a forest fire”. Indeed, it did!! So, no you know.

    • Thank you for the information. I will correct the article. I did look at the radar and it showed no clouds over the Cohutta’s a 3 PM, when the fire supposedly started. However, at that point, it would have been very easy to put out the fire. It was a terrible mistake to follow a policy that was intended for small forest fires in normal weather conditions.


    fire was intentionally set. by the national park service. they were supposed to be small, controlled fires to clear out underbrush but the winds came in and they lost control. blaming it on lightening was easier than admitting they screwed up.


    I am trying to understand wat would motivate anti-government paramilitary types to burn down forests. After all, if they are running a guerrilla operation, then wouldn’t having tree cover be an advantage for them… Or is it only me that considers that angle.

    • I didn’t say that it was the paramilitary groups that did the burning. I said it was domestic terrorists. There are all shapes and forms of domestic terrorists.


    I hate lies. Here is a website that covers the United States with 44 different satellite sensors that monitor Lightening activity and keeps historical data. The nearest lightening strike that day was south of Atlanta, GA. I live in this area and I am very familiar with Rough Ridge Trail. I have heard morons say that it stormed in Cisco(So?) that day, it didn’t or they saw the storm like this RH dude. Whatever, I can assure you where the “lightening” hit no one would have seen it. It is to remote. If they claim like this RH dude they saw the actual storm then I suspect he is delusional or an employee. The author of this website is correct. The Forest Service could easily put this to rest by releasing from their BLM satellite lightening monitor for that day proving a lightening strike. Don’t hold your breath. If it was arson then Richard is right and they were obligated to fight the fire while it was a 10 acre fire. My guess it was either arson or a careless hunter leaving a cigarette behind thinking it was out. It happen to my mom a decade ago where she thought the cigarette was out and it end up igniting a bush a full 10 hours later. Fire fighters are well aware of this. I believe it was a careless risk to let the fire burn in these extreme drought conditions. Maybe it works out and cleans the underbrush but if I hike this summer and the forest is a wasteland I also have a website.

    • Yes, one of the South’s most beautiful forests is a wasteland now . . . not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars cost of fighting the fire when it got out of control.


      RH here! I assure you that I am not a ‘dude’. Neither am I blind, stupid or delusional. There was, in fact, a short thunder storm that I, and many others witnessed on Oct 16. I was about 8 miles away as the crow flies from where the fire started. So, unless you were standing where I was, then you have no idea what went on.

      You people get on here with your conspiracy theories and get each other worked up over nothing. Geez…


        No disrespect RH but the satellite data clearly states there were no lightening strikes in that area from October 14th – October 17th. Hard to argue with the data. Did you actually see the lightening bolt that struck that day near Rough Ridge Trail ? Now we have another fire in Gatlinburg which started near a popular trail. Confirmed Arson investigations in North Carolina and Northeast Georgia which had fires starting on steep ridges near trails. See a pattern here. Arson is not a conspiracy theory.

        • That’s right . . . Arson is not a conspiracy theory. Do you remember my photo of the Nantahala Fires on November 6? There were three fires started almost simultaneously about a half mile apart. The skies were blue and there were no nearby roads from which someone might have tossed a burning cigarette. They had to be arson.


            Interesting. I imagine there is a trail nearby and the three small fires were started on a steep ridge therefore making it difficult for firefighters to contain. There have been numerous arrests for copycat arsonists mostly young idiots like in Cookeville, TN this morning. But all these arrest are clearly local arsons. The person or group who have basically tried to burn down the Southern National Forests are starting these fires on steep ridges near a trail that must be hiked a distance. Same MO on all of them. Rough Ridge was the first one and after the US Forest Service said it was lightening they were not obligated to contain it when it was only 10 acres. I went on a citizen appointment to the Southern California Incident Management in Chatsworth, GA and when I pressed the Information Officer there on how could they rule out arson. I thought he was being evasive with me and I was making the other private citizens uncomfortable so I let it go. The Cohutta Wilderness is 7 miles wide at its widest and I live near Eton, GA which is less than 8 miles to the origin of the Rough Ridge fire as the crow flies and I observed nothing but blue skies that day like your contact at the Blue Ridge newspaper stated also. Well that covers the West and East of the fire. Who should I believe my lying eyes ? Like I previously stated the BLM can release the lightening data for that day proving whether or not there was lightening activity on the October 16th in that area. I’m still waiting. I am speculating the Rough Ridge fire wasn’t investigated for arson until later when it became blindingly obvious we have a deranged-person or group trying to burn down the Southern National Forest. You have to admit their timing could not have been better with us being in a 100 year drought. CNN confirmed last night that a source in the US Forest Service confirmed the Gatlinburg fire was “human-induced” and they want to catch this man. Authorities in North Carolina are looking for a white man in a dark suv. I believe it is a deranged-person or maybe a group. As for motives I could speculate. No offense to no one. Have to admit the arson fires in Israel look suspicious. Maybe a hardcore believer in Climate Change. Pure speculation. Who ever committed the arson in Gatlinburg should be charged with Capital Murder since 4 reported people have perished with many more missing.

          • Arson or no arson, it was absolutely insane for the US Forest Service to let those fires in National Wilderness Areas burn for weeks. This was not a normal situation where natural fires burn for a few days then are extinguished by a rainstorm. Normally, in the Southeast, lightning is accompanied by heavy rains anyway. They knew that this was the worst drought on record in the Southern Appalachians. There will be erosion from heavy rains pouring the scorched mountainsides. Lye created by the chemical reaction of ashes with rain water . . . along with the silt from erosion . . . will wipe out the trout population downstream. What was once a pristine natural environment will be scarred for at least a decade. What were they thinking?


    It ‘ ain’t ‘ paranoia, if they really are out to get you. Getting off the grid and actually living the life works for some people. But like always, only a very few can hack it.


    Couldn’t agree more with the insanity of letting it burn. They kept saying it was Congress that designated how they respond to the fire. This is clearly not true. I stated on their Facebook page that Congress did not pass a law stating they could never put out a fire in a Federally Designated Wilderness. That they were misleading the public. The truth is the US Forest Service has “a let it burn” policy to manage the National Forest and Wildernesses. Normally I would defer to the experts on Forest Management but to say we have no Agency as a society and blindly follow an insane policy that was meant for normal weather circumstances within a standard deviation and “let it burn” in the worst recorded drought in North Georgia is breathtaking. The local US Forest Ranger told me that they measure drought/moisture conditions on a 1 – 800 scale with 800 being the driest and the Cohutta Wilderness pre-fire was at 730 the highest they ever recorded. Finally, I pushed them in a joking way and said you can’t tell me if the whole Wilderness was blazing that there isn’t an individual who could step in and apply more resources. They hesitated to answer. The Secretary of Interior has the power to intervene. I’m hoping it cleared out mostly brush but either way just a terribly unnecessary risk. The Cohutta Wilderness is older than our Country with the biggest fire ever recorded according to another Ranger 2300 acres which was an arson fire started back in1988 near Rough Ridge on the Jacks River Trail. The ecological damage you mention is unfortunate too.


    Hey Richard,
    I just heard on the news that 2 kids were arrested for setting the Gatlinburg fires. Kids burning down the forest, kids rioting in the streets over the election and police defending them selves, wheres the adults? Will the adults responsiable for these kids please teach them to be good citizens? Oh, thats right, it’s cool to be your childs friend not their parent. Sorry for the sarcasm but this really up sets me that this was arson. It was avoidable.

    • What teenagers or children? That is incredible. All that horrific damage, suffering and deaths . . . millions of dollars spent fighting the fires. As minors, they will spend a couple of years, at most, in a Youth Detention Home.


    Thank you! I tried telling everyone. I’m a local and I was on a little day ride through the cohuttas one day in the weeks before the fires by myself and I distinctly remember seeing signs every mile that said “Area Closed: Control Burn Fall 2016”. As soon as I heard the lightning story I knew it was a lie.

    • Yes it was. I remember seeing the signs too, but apparently people in the immediate area were apparently persuaded to keep their mouths shut.


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