Why had this routine burn caused so many problems when conditions had been within prescription? In reviewing the incident it became apparent that several factors led to the poor air quality conditions in Atlanta:
Multiple fires: In addition to the 1542 acre Oconee National Forest and 1460 acre Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge fires, several other prescribed and wildfires were burning that day.
Permitting procedures: It is unclear if the Georgia State Forestry Commission, the issuers of the prescribed burn permits, were aware of the extent of burn areas scheduled for the burn day.
Changes in meteorological conditions: The burn was ignited during the presence of high pressure system with air flows heading west (Air flow 1). During the burns, this system shifted, as did the airflow. The result was north western air flows (air flow 2) transporting the smoke toward Atlanta.