Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Okefenokee wildfire spreads, forces evacuations in Georgia

Okefenokee wildfire spreads, forces evacuations in Georgia Okefenokee wildfire spreads, forces evacuations in Georgia
Kenny Thornton | 10 May, 2017, 00:04

About 100 firefighters from Georgia and Florida have joined together to help fight the massive wildfire.

Many residents of a small southeast Georgia community are waiting despite orders to evacuate after a wildfire burning in the Okefenokee Swamp crept to the edge of town.

Firefighters in southern Georgia are battling to keep a fire in a wildlife refuge from spreading amid unfavorable weather conditions.

Firefighters are using St. George Elementary School as a staging area, and road closures would prevent the operation of school transportation, the school district said.

A shelter was set up Monday afternoon in Kingsland at the Camden County Recreation Center, where Red Cross officials said they were prepared to house as many as 300 people.

The West Mims Fire grew to more than 133,000 acres by Monday afternoon, pushing south of USA 94, according to a statement from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

"What I'm expecting to run into is a lot of wild land fire", said Firefighter Dale Parker. The fire overran the area, but the tractor driver was able to walk to the road and is safe with no injuries, the statement said.

All Charlton County schools will be closed on Monday, May 8.

Fire analysts said that moisture in available fuels was so low that the "probability of ignition is in the 87 percentile", the update said.

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A burn ban has been imposed for the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Baker County, Florida and Charlton County, Georgia.

A wildfire sparked by a lightning strike in early April reached more than 129,000 acres by May.

Voluntary evacuations of the small town of St. George, close to the Florida line, had been urged during the weekend.

"I do believe they went to the Waycross fires, the three that I did send down there, so it's something they are used to and it's all voluntary for which guys wanted to go or which personnel wanted to go, so they volunteered", says Chief Medeiros.

The West Mims fire burns in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia, U.S. April 25, 2017.

The West Mims grew by 4,000 acres on Sunday, and has burned almost 134,000 acres total. It's been "a little unnerving", he said, "But the flames are going to have to push people out of here".

"We'll probably be standing by their structures assisting them to protect structures", said Parker.

And residents in Nassau County, Florida, have been warned that they too might need to leave their homes.

Sunday brought a surprise trip to Charlton County for two Crisp County Firefighters. "We've got too much at stake just to leave it".

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