Worst fire conditions in a decade - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Worst fire conditions in a decade

April 26, 2007

Waycross --  Wind gusts up to 20 miles per hour worked against firefighters as they battled the wildfire Thursday night and Friday morning.

A spokesman with the Georgia Forestry Commission said the conditions are more extreme than dangerous Florida Wildfires of 1998.

Roaring, the front line of the fire came from Bear Island in the swamp into Dixon State Forest. "That part of the swamp hasn't burned in the past 50 years so the fuels, what the fire burns of course are just extremely volatile,extremely thick, extremely heavy," said Buck Kline of the GA Forestry Commission's Valdosta post.

Like a black tornado of smoke, the fire twisted above the strengthened fire breaks, near the power lines, just 150 yards from Highway One.

"We can't take crews in the swamp, it's the Okefenokee Refuge, it's exactly what it says, it's a swamp so we have to wait until the fire comes out of the swamp," Kline said.

Two air tankers and two helicopters help with the attack, adding sir support with retardant and water drops. "The goal is to contain the fire to the swamp to prevent any acreage loss outside the swamp."

The force of the head fire tossed burning branches and embers more than 200 yards sparking spot fires across Highway One, but were quickly extinguished. "Fire crews were able to get that spot very quickly, it only burned about a 20 square foot area."

Crews have been battling the blaze for nine days and with 20 mile per hour winds fueling spot-overs, a no burn order was emphasized. "Please don't burn, it's too dry," Kline asked. "I hope you see today how quickly one small ember, how little it was to take off and turn into something major.

Along with the reminder that prescribed burning season is over. 

Highway One remains closed tonight and homes between the one and 16 mile markers remain under an evacuation order.