Okefenokee Fire Burns 3,800 Acres

Lightning started wildfire in wildlife refuge

 

RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A wildfire sparked by lightning spread rapidly Monday inside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, where officials estimated roughly 6 square miles had burned near the Georgia-Florida state line.

Low humidity allowed the blaze to jump from 940 acres Sunday to about 3,800 acres Monday, said Sarah Wyatt, a refuge ranger and spokeswoman. She said fire crews were using bulldozers to plow fire breaks in an effort to contain the blaze within the refuge, which covers nearly 407,000 acres of swampy terrain in southeast Georgia.

“The conditions are just extremely dry,” Wyatt said. “When everything is dried out like that, it’s going to catch on fire.”

See also  Rappelling into the Scene

The fire posed no immediate threat to people, homes or other structures, Wyatt said, adding all trails and camp sites inside the refuge remain open to visitors. The blaze was burning in the southern portion of the refuge near the Georgia-Florida state line.

Thick smoke in the area caused authorities Monday to close a stretch of Florida state Highway 2 because of poor visibility, said Lt. Aaron Stephens of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Wyatt said swamps need to burn periodically so they won’t become overgrown and turn into uplands. As long as people and property aren’t in danger, she said, it’s standard practice to let the fire burn inside the refuge.

See also  USFA: California On-Duty Death

The refuge, which is headquartered in Folkston about 120 miles southwest of Savannah, is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Large fires in the swamp can burn for months before they run out of fuel.

In April 2011, lightning was blamed for a fire in the refuge that burned and smoldered for nearly a full year. The blaze charred a total of 309,200 acres, or about 483 square miles, before authorities declared it was extinguished. Only 18,206 acres burned outside the Okefenokee refuge. No homes were lost and no serious injuries were reported.

Georgia officials are bracing for a busy wildfire season this year as unseasonably dry weather covers most of the state. Much of central and southern Georgia, including the Okefenokee Swamp, is considered abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. And a large portion of northern Georgia is suffering from moderate to extreme drought.

See also  After 75 Years Smokey Bear Still Keeps an Eye on America’s Forests

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Topics

Lightning started wildfire in wildlife refuge   RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A wildfire sparked by lightning spread rapidly Monday inside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, where officials estimated roughly 6 square miles had burned near the Georgia-Florida state line. Low humidity allowed the blaze to jump from 940 acres Sunday to […]

Get The Wildland Firefighter Newsletter

Related Articles

Drone Halts Helicopter Response to OR Fire

Drone Halts Helicopter Response to OR Fire

David Smigelski - Mail Tribune, Medford, Ore. Sep. 13—A helicopter was forced from the air in the middle of a firefight Monday when a drone appeared over a fire burning on Pioneer Road. Jackson County Fire District No. 5 and the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest...

OR Adopts CA Fire Tactic, Shutting Power Amid High Winds

OR Adopts CA Fire Tactic, Shutting Power Amid High Winds

By GILLIAN FLACCUS Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon utilities shut down power to tens of thousands of customers on Friday as dry easterly winds swept into the region in the hopes that it would lessen the risk of wildfires in extremely dry and hot...