Wildfires force evacuations

Southeast Georgia fire now covers 100,000 acres.

BY P.J. HELLER | WAYCROSS, Ga. | May 7, 2007

More than 100,000 acres have been burned by a wildfire in southeast Georgia.

A raging wildfire in southeast Georgia now burning into its fourth week has consumed more than 100,000 acres, or 156 square miles, as of Monday night, officials reported. The blaze was one of several burning in the area.

Elsewhere, wildfires were reported in Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, Michigan and Arizona, forcing evacuations in some areas as flames threatened residential areas.

The largest of the fires in Ware and Charlton counties was burning through forest and swamp land. The Sweat Farm Road fire was 80 percent contained while the adjoining Big Turnout blaze was 45 percent contained. More than 800 firefighters were battling the blaze which began April 16 when a tree fell on a power line, officials said.

Several other fires which have erupted since then are being investigated and arson is suspected.

Four other fires broke out after lightning strikes on Saturday. Three of the fires were reported in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, one of the oldest and most well preserved freshwater areas in America. Those fires were quickly brought under control by firefighters.

In Atkinson County, the Roundabout Swamp fire, burning in a deep peat bog, had burned 5,805 acres and was 50 percent contained. Fires in Brantley and Long counties had burned nearly 5,000 acres. The largest of those fire, the Kneeknocker Swamp blaze covering 3,148 acres, was 95 percent contained.

Residents in the Racepond community near Charlton County remained under a mandatory evacuation order. Several roads in the area, including U.S. 1 between Ware and Charlton counties, remained closed due to heavy smoke, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Elsewhere, fires forced evacuations in Walton County in the Florida Panhandle, in Lake County in central Florida and in Alachua County. Evacuation orders were later lifted in Lake County when firefighters were able to contain the 1,000-acre blaze near Wekiva Park and in Walton County, where the fire burned 1,200 acres.

A shelter was set up at the Waldo Baptist Church in Waldo for people evacuating their homes in Alachua County.

Some 500 residents on the Volusia-Flagler county line near Ormond Beach were warned to be ready to evacuate due to a 6,500-acre wildfire. Nearly 200 fires were reported burning statewide.

In northeastern Minnesota, a 16,500-acre wildfire forced about 100 people from their homes. The fire destroyed about 30 buildings.

There were no injuries reported in any of the fires.

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Related Links:

Georgia Forestry Commission

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge


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