South Georgia Battles Rampant Wildfires

Press Release | July 3, 2011

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

By J. Wyatt Hutcheson

Since April 28, a wildfire caused by a lightning strike has burned in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. At presstime, that fire had burned approximately 281,992 acres of swamp and land in both Georgia and Florida.

The fire is being managed as the Honey Prairie Complex under the unified command of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Forestry Commission and the Florida Division of Forestry. More than 500 firefighting personnel have been assigned to this fire, which has presented numerous challenges to firefighting crews.

Record drought conditions in southeast Georgia have left water levels low in the swamp and plenty of fuel for the fire to burn. Severe thunderstorms that have dropped trace amounts of rain have been welcome, but with the unwelcome effect of lightning, which has triggered new fires.

The Racepond and Sawfly Fires have now encompassed more than 25,124 acres of privately owned timberland in Ware, Brantley and Charlton counties. At one point the Racepond Fire was thought to have been contained, but shifting winds and dry conditions fueled its expansion across the containment line.

This fire threatened residences in Brantley County, where a voluntary evacuation was issued as it burned quickly through timberland. Smaller fires have also ignited in Ware and Camden counties.

This has been one of the busiest fire seasons for the state of Georgia in recent history. More than 500 fires have been reported around the state this year.

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