Big Fires Break Out Near Waycross

At presstime firefighters were still battling this 12-mile-long fire.

GON Staff | April 18, 2007

Fire has touched 20,000 acres of land, including portions of Dixon Memorial WMA.

At presstime, more than 1,000 people were involved in a fire-fighting effort that began on Sunday, April 15, just west of Waycross in Ware County. By Wednesday, the fire had spread to the south and southeast and was said to be 12 miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide. The fire has covered 20,000 acres, according to Steve Hampton, deputy director for the Ware County Emergency Management Agency.

“I know what those folks in California go through now. It’s just unbelievable what it’s doing and what it’s capable of,” said Hampton.

By Wednesday, the fire had not reached the borders of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. However, the west and north refuge entrances had been closed because fire was nearby.

The fire started on Sunday, April 15 in a small town just west of Waycross.

Dixon Memorial WMA did have fire burning through its southwest corner. WRD biologist Greg Nelms, who oversees Dixon, said one of the greatest concerns for wildlife is that it’s the middle of turkey-nesting season.

“I would say any nests in areas of fuel, meaning underbrush, pinestraw and palmettos, would probably be a loss. There may be some re-nesting in the area,” said Nelms.

Nelms added that hens that re-nest and have successful hatches will benefit from the green growth that will result from the massive fire.

Personnel with WRD Fisheries out of Waycross worked on the fire-stopping effort until 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.

“There were flames 20 to 40 feet above the trees when it would crown — just an awesome display of natural power. The billows of smoke, and to see the planes dropping water trying to cool it down was just awesome. It’s hard to put into words if you weren’t there,” said WRD Region Supervisor Bert Deener.

Deener, who heads WRD’s South Central Regional Fisheries office in Waycross, said their role in the fire fight was to supply fire crews with supplies.

“We were feeding folks who hadn’t eaten in 24 hours. I can’t praise the crews enough for the work they did to save structures. The guys on the tractors pushing firebreaks; they’re out there with it. It’s just unbelievable,” said Deener.

The fire reportedly started when a tree fell on a powerline west of Waycross near the town of Cogdell. Sunday’s high winds helped the fire spread quickly.

On April 18, the Ware County fire was said to be 12 miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide.

More than 1,000 people are involved in the fire-fighting effort near Waycross.

Crews battle a giant fire near the town of Waycross on Tuesday evening.

By Wednesday, about 20 percent of the fire had been contained.

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