Forestry commission to relocate

The Richmond County Georgia Forestry Commission will move its Tobacco Road office to a smaller building by next month.


Officials say the move to an office off the beaten path inside the Spirit Creek Educational Forest in Hephzibah will save money and should have only a minimal effect on response times.

"Yes, it could slow us down somewhat, but we don't really expect very much change in how we operate," said Steve Abbott, the chief senior ranger for the commission's Richmond County division, which also covers Columbia County.

Lately, though, that operation has been busy, with forestry rangers responding to more wildfires as a result of dry conditions.

"There are more fires this year due to dry and drought conditions, and also due to incendiary arson incidents," Mr. Abbott said.

Since the Georgia Forestry's 2009 fiscal year started in July, the local forestry office has responded to 25 wildfires in Richmond County. In the 2008 fiscal year, the office responded to 41 wildfires there.

By Nov. 3, Mr. Abbott and his staff will have moved from their 2615 Tobacco Road office to the existing facility at the educational forest.

Mr. Abbott couldn't provide figures on how much savings will occur with the move, but he said it will be "significant."

"It makes economic sense to consolidate to the new office," he said of the building, which was formerly a fire station and is at least 30 years old.

Mr. Abbott said the Tobacco Road forestry office employs two rangers who manage wildfires that typically occur "when people burn leaves and those fires become uncontrolled."

"Human error is the No. 1 cause of these fires," he said.

Since Oct. 1, the commission has issued more than 800 burn permits for Richmond and Columbia counties. Outdoor burning season runs through April 30.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or


- Fire control and protecting the natural resources of Georgia

- Managing timber through controlled burns

- Effectively using bulldozers and other heavy equipment to control woods fires.


Fiscal year 2008 -- 41 wildfires in Richmond County

Fiscal year 2008 -- 36 wildfires in Columbia County


July 1 to Oct. 16 -- Rangers fought 25 wildfires in Richmond County

July 1 to Oct. 16 -- Rangers fought 7 wildfires in Columbia County


Fiscal Year - Columbia County - Richmond County

2008 - 36 - 41

2009* - 7 - 25

* July 1 to Oct. 16

Source: Georgia Forestry Commission