South Georgia Fire Update III

From Billy Bruce of the Valdosta, GA Daily Times:

VALDOSTA, Ga. Firefighting crews have successfully contained an average of 90 percent of the wildfires burning in South Georgia counties to the point that on-site personnel have been reduced to an emergency-only level.

The Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC), however, warns that hot, dry weather today could contribute to conditions that could cause new fires to start or re-burns to occur in the existing fire zones, said spokesman Larry Morris in Waycross.

The fires are 10 miles south of Waycross and 16 miles west of Folkston in Ware and Charlton counties. Some fires also have been fought in Clinch and Atkinson counties, the GFC reports. No road closures were reported Sunday and skies over Valdosta remained smoke-free, as they have been since Tropical Storm Barry moved through the area last weekend.

Monday’s weather was predicted to bring temperatures of between 98 to 102 degrees with a relative humidity from 23 to 28 percent, and winds Sunday evening were expected to produce gusts of up to 15 miles per hour. That forecast is similar to conditions that existed when the fires were raging and clouding skies with smoke hundreds of miles away from the source, Morris said.

“We’re just hoping we can get some more rain to offset the potential for any new burns,” Morris said. “And the potential for reburns is high. These fires aren’t going away unless we get some rain. It is something we are going to have to contend with until (rain) happens.”

Lightning strikes ignited two fires in Clinch County and one in Atkinson County in the past few days, but both were brought under control swiftly. Also, a controlled burn of 1,500 acres in the Sweat Farm area was very successful in destroying fuel sources to remove the threat of reburns, Morris said.

The Sweat Farm fire is 98 percent contained, and has destroyed 83,683 acres at a loss estimate of $29.7 million.

The Big Turnaround fire has destroyed 386,722 acres, most of which is in the Okefenokee Swamp. That fire is 80 percent contained. Damage estimates are at $23.7 million.

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, including the visitor center, is closed. The north entrance of Okefenokee Swamp Park is open, but boating is not permitted at this time. For more information, see www.gatrees.org.

Looks like things are getting under control. Praise God!

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