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Progress made on 'Bugaboo' wildfire

Firefighters hope to gain more ground Wednesday on massive blaze.

BY P.J. HELLER | WAYCROSS, Ga. | May 15, 2007

Firefighters reported progress Tuesday night in battling the massive Bugaboo fire on the Georgia-Florida border even as flames crept to within a mile of some homes.

"All the fire lines, containment lines, we had in held today so far," reported Bill Beebe, a spokesman for the Florida Bubagoo fire team.

"We had a successful day," added Marlette Lacey of the Joint Information Center.

By Tuesday night, the fire had burned nearly a quarter of a million acres in the two states, or about 390 square miles. It was 50 percent contained in Florida and 15 percent contained in Georgia.

No new evacuations were reported but about 1,000 people in the Deep Creek area in Columbia County remained out of their homes under a mandatory evacuation order that was issued Monday afternoon. No homes have been burned. Voluntary evacuations remained in place for Moniac and Reeves Landing in Georgia.

The evacuation order came after the fire jumped containment lines east of U.S. 441, about five miles north of Deep Creek.

Firefighters hoped to gain more ground on Wednesday, with a forecast that called for winds to decrease to between 4 and 8 miles per hour.

"We hope to be able to make more progress on the fire if the winds come out as forecasted," Beebe said. "But you know how forecasts are. They don't always come true."

Interstates 75 and 10 were open in Georgia and Florida but officials continued to caution that frequent closures were possible depending on visibility. Smoke from the fire drifted into Alabama on Tuesday. Other roads in Georgia and Florida, including portions of U.S. 441, remained closed.

The Bugaboo fire was started by lightning in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The wildlife center, including its visitor center and headquarters, remain closed. Also closed was Stephen C. Foster State Park and Dixon State Park. Okefenokee Swamp Park was open.

The Sweat Farm/Big Turnout blaze that has been burning since April 16 in Ware and Charlton counties in Georgia had consumed 136,306 acres. That fire was started when a tree fell on a power line. The Sweat Road fire was 80 percent contained; the Big Turnout fire was 45 percent contained.

Georgia officials said there were 38 active fires burning in the state covering 288,279 acres. In Florida, officials said 227 wildfires were burning in 52 of the state's 67 counties, consuming some 173,646 acres.

Firefighters in northeastern Minnesota and Canada, meantime, also reported progress in battling the Ham Lake fire. That fire, which began May 5, has burned nearly 75,000 acres, of which about 38,000 acres were on the U.S. side of the border. The fire was 50 percent contained and officials were hoping that it might be brought under control by the end of the week.

The fire has destroyed 133 structures in U.S. and another 14 in Canada.


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