Are wildfires affecting North Georgia tourism? - CBS46 News

Are wildfires affecting North Georgia tourism?

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Paulding County Fire & Rescue and the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) are currently battling a wildfire encompassing as many as 20 acres.  Source: Paulding County Fire and Rescue Paulding County Fire & Rescue and the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) are currently battling a wildfire encompassing as many as 20 acres. Source: Paulding County Fire and Rescue
HELEN, GA (CBS46) -

As wildfires continue to burn in North Georgia, CBS46 went to Helen, a popular tourist destination, to see if the conditions are impacting business.

With the smell of smoke in the air and hazy conditions in the distance, people were still walking around and eating outside. While employees at a few businesses said they think it’s having a negative impact, most workers at shops and restaurants said it’s business as usual.

“I was really worried because about a week ago the smoke was kind of bad and I was afraid it was going to affect business but it hasn’t,” said Brie Ballinger, manager at Troll Tavern.

She said they’ve taken some calls from people asking how the smoke is affecting the city. Helen just wrapped up its busy Oktoberfest celebration and is now getting ready for the Christmas season.

“Whether it’s gas or whether its forest fires, our business can be impacted, but overall this hasn’t been an issue for us,” said Mike Reis, manager at Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen. “When I see sales start to drop then I’ll get concerned.”

He said at this point, though, that isn’t the case.

Jim Sierocki at Lindenhaus Imports did think the smoky conditions are keeping some people away.

“We’ll get less people visiting, we’ll get less local travelers, less people coming up from Atlanta,” he said. “We should be a lot busier than we are right now.”

Tourists walking around said they weren’t bothered.

“It’s not super unpleasant or anything like that so it hasn’t stopped us from having a good time,” said Rick Boaen of Savannah, who visited with his wife and dogs.

Dottie Daubert and her husband just arrived for a visit from Pennsylvania and said they had some concerns when they first heard about the fires.

“We were worried about that. We called down here before we came down to see how bad it was because I have lung problems and breathing problems so we didn’t know how it was going to affect but so far it’s doing good,” she said.

She said they were just excited to be in Helen and were enjoying their visit.

She said, "I love it, love it, love it, it’s priceless, it’s beautiful.”

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DROUGHT IN GEORGIA
BY THE NUMBERS

Days without measurable rainfall

40+ days

Acres burned in Georgia

~33,000

Population in drought areas

8.7 million