Firefighters make much-needed progress - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Monday 6:00 report

Firefighters make much-needed progress

April 23, 2007

Ware County --   Firefighters used bulldozers to widen fire breaks to protect homes.  Ware County schools remained closed today because of concerns about smoke reducing visibility on roads used by school buses. The schools have been closed since last Tuesday.

Over the weekend, smoke extended all the way to Chattanooga, Tennessee more than 350 miles away. The fire started a week ago by a fallen power line that ignited tinder-dry trees.  The fire now is about 45 percent contained, but it has destroyed at least 18 homes.

Authorities urged about five-thousand people to evacuate because of possible health risks from smoke inhalation.

They've broken the one fire in Ware County into two different sections, the Sweat Farm Road Fire and the Big Turn Around Fire.  The Sweat Farm Fire is the most intense, but we got good news on what was considered one of the worst areas just 24 hours ago.

Just outside Maynor, the Georgia Forestry Commission worked on a prescribed burn to clear out, what little is left that might fuel the Ware County wildfire.

"This is the only area of fuel still left on this side of the road and we're just trying to burn this out," said Royce Davis of the GA Forestry Commission.

Cutting fire breaks and clearing these spots is helping to contain this blaze. "If not, we're going to have to keep going around and contain it with the water trucks tonight," said Davis.

The wind continues to spark spot-overs, sending embers over the fire breaks into fresh brush.  "Flaring up here and there but with this wind you never can tell, they're saying it may gust up a little today, you never know," said Bleckley County Fire Fighter Dale Mullis.

Today's conditions were an improvement over yesterday when crews got doused with flame retardant when flames got a little too close. "It covered us.  I think all six tractors got it and some of the fire trucks, engines got covered with it," said Davis.

There is still concern that the winds will shift tomorrow and could blow the smoke from the Sweat Farm Road Fire back into neighborhoods in Maynor and Waycross.  What they say they really need out here is rain and it will take inches at this point to do any good at all.

  Depending on conditions, Highway 122, 84, and portions of 82 remain closed because of the smoke.

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