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Cheaha fires were still burning Tuesday

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112121 Duck Nest Fire USDA Forest Service photo by Sean Snyder.jpg

The Duck Nest fire is shown earlier this week in a Forest Service photo by Sean Snyder.

Two fires on Mt. Cheaha, covering more than 1,100 acres, continued to burn Tuesday despite weekend rain.

The larger of the two, the “Fall Branch” wildfire, which has burned 735 acres on the west side, was 65 percent contained, District Superintendent Renee Raney said Tuesday.

The “Duck Nest” fire, on the southeastern side, has burned 350 acres and was 10 percent contained, she said.

About 140 crew members were fighting the fire, including personnel from the U.S. Forest Service, the Alabama Forestry Commission, the Alabama State Park Strike Team and volunteers. 

No guests, firefighters or state park employees have been injured, Raney said, and no dwellings have been destroyed.  

The fires started Friday night, at which point all guests renting cabins or other dwellings were evacuated. A few other overnight guests were present on Tuesday.

Daniel and Megan Sisson of Enterprise, Miss., were renting a cabin in the park on Friday night and were told to prepare to evacuate if they heard sirens. On Saturday morning just before noon, they told the Daily Home’s Kelli Tipton, the two were approached by a staff member as they walked on the trails near Bald Rock. The staff member asked the two to leave the park for safety reasons. They were disappointed but were given a refund, and plan to return to the park in the future. 

At present no day visitors are allowed on the mountain, and all roads leading to the mountain are closed, as are the hiking trails leading to the mountain, Raney said.

Hikers may not enter the following trailheads: Cheaha, Turnipseed, Adams Gap, Nubbin Creek, High Falls. Other trail closings include the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail from Cheaha Trail to Adams Gap, the Chinnabee Silent Trail south of Alabama 281. Other trail closures are Cave Creek and Odum Scout.

Park officials will evaluate the situation Thursday and release information then concerning when daytime visitors will be allowed into the park.

“Our number one concern,” Raney said, “is the safety of the firefighters, staff and guests.”

The cause of the two fires was under investigation, but the strong winds that blew through northeast Alabama on Friday night downed a power line that possibly started the bigger fire.

Greg Lein, the director of the Alabama State Parks, said Saturday, that he could not speculate about a cause.