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Officials ready for revelry
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Forsyth County News
Authorities will be out in force this weekend to ensure revelers have a fun but safe Independence Day.

Forsyth County Sheriff’s Capt. Frank Huggins said deputies will use watercraft, bicycles and horses to patrol Lake Lanier and its parks. In addition, they will monitor the roads on motorcycles and in cars.

“We’re at zero tolerance on open containers,” he said. “Alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited at any county or corps of engineers park and we intend to enforce it.”

He said the sheriff’s office also will conduct random safety checks on local roads at different times day and night throughout the 78-hour period.

“We’re going to do everything we can to keep Forsyth County safe,” he said.

Cumming Police Sgt. Scott Burgess, who is interim chief, said the department is grateful for assistance from the sheriff’s office during the city’s Fourth of July festivities tonight and tomorrow.

“We’ll be out doing crowd control for the fireworks and the parade trying to make sure everybody’s safe,” he said. “We will be out on the roads and trying to be very visible, making sure the roads are safe for everybody during the holiday weekend.”

He encouraged those who plan to include alcoholic beverages in their weekend celebrations to stay home, use a designated driver or take a taxi.

The Georgia Department of Public Safety and Georgia State Patrol predict that 22 will die and 895 suffer injuries in 1,874 wrecks statewide during the holiday period, which began at 6 p.m. Thursday and ends at midnight Sunday.

Public safety officials also are bracing for emergencies on the lake.

Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers said water-goers should obey all posted boating and swimming signs. Perhaps more importantly, he said, they should wear life vests and stay out of the water if they can’t swim.

“Boaters and fishermen should be aware that it is anticipated that the volume of visitors to the lake will be significantly larger than last year,” he said. “So caution will need to be heeded. Boat traffic is expected to be much larger than in years past.”

There were three deaths on the Forsyth County side of the lake during last year’s holiday period.

A Duluth teenager drowned July Fourth near Little Ridge Park.

The next day, two men from Alpharetta drowned during a storm while trying to free their rented pontoon boat from a sandbar. Neither of the men knew how to swim or was wearing a life vest.

According to a report from the department of public safety, there were 22 fatal wrecks statewide during the Fourth of July 2008, two of which were alcohol-related.

Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the department, said state troopers will be out patrolling through the weekend.

“Anytime a holiday period falls on a weekend, there is an increased chance of encountering an alcohol-impaired driver as you travel,” Hitchens said. “Minimize distractions in your vehicle and be alert, should you be forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision.”

E-mail Julie Arrington at