Fire crews scramble to cut more breaks -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fire crews scramble to cut more breaks

April 25, 2007

Waycross- Progress took a step back seat Wednesday as fire spilled over breaks in Okefenokee Swamp Park, and sent the Georgia Forestry Commission into a race to cut more fire breaks.  This evening the fire continues to roll parallel to Highway One. 

This portion of the fire that was 80 percent contained just Monday now continues to run out of control with flames leaping as high as 100 feet and is expected to remain a concern well into Thursday.

It started with a back fire, intentionally set last night along Highway 177 to try an draw down the intensity of the swamp fire as it hit dry land again.  

 "To try and hold the fire across the paved road right there and try and do a burn out, knock that fire that was moving very rapidly just way down and try an get it controlled,"  said GA Forestry Commission Chief Ranger Byron Haire. 

With flames lashing nearly 100 feet, the fire jumped breaks and fire fighters lost control as the fire burned as close as three miles to the city, then turned south.

Last night this entire area was live forest today it's nothing but ash and they say the fire keeps rolling that way towards highway one.  "From the plume it looks to be maybe paralleling one at this moment, but it's still moving," Haire said. 

As it moves, this hot, intense, plume fire is drawing in more heat and at this point can burn in any direction.

"There's lots of fuel to burn, it's a very resin type fuel that burns hot and throws embers and sparks well ahead of your head fire," Haire said.  "They will have some contingency lines in places where they feel that with the use of natural barriers such as roads or other things it would be a good place to get it there and plow and make some good wide breaks and get it stopped."

It's sent a lot of smoke into some of the neighboring communities, and called for the evacuation of Astoria and several other neighborhoods.

Those residents have been sitting outside on their porches today, watching the skies very closely to see if they may have to evacuate again. The smoke and the fire seem to be moving away from the city but at one point was as close as three miles.

From the air today the prognosis wasn't good. "It has actually shifted and the direction is sort of a southwestern type of direction its burning and there's nothing there, I mean I saw it from the air  there's nothing but just pure timberland and peat," said John Oxendine, Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner. 

Today, crews feverishly worked to get out ahead of the fire and cut more breaks in hopes of stalling the blaze. "It's making it difficult and we are also concerned because we are expecting stronger winds tomorrow," said Haire. 

They're expecting the winds to pick up tonight into Thursday as a new front moves in, residents living around here are fearing they could once again be evacuated from their homes.

Because of today's intense battle with the fire crews have not been able to estimate just how many acres this overnight fire has consumed.