Torched trees pose a threat - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Torched trees pose a threat

May 7, 2007

Atkinson County --  Firefighters in Atkinson County now have the Roundabout Swamp fire about 50% contained, but the 6,000 acre wildfire continues to burn in the peat bog. That's creating a new danger for the firefighters working around the clock.

The thick blanket of smoke that still settles over parts of Atkinson County hinder the firefighters and foresters battling this blaze.

But a new danger lurks just beyond the smoke screen.  "Beyond the smoke you're going to see a lot of trees that have fallen over the last few days," said Forestry Supervisor Jamey Smith.

A dangerous effect from the fire burning in the Roundabout Swamp peat bogs.  "There's 20 feet of peat underneath this and the fires continues to burn the down layer after layer after layer," said Susan Reisch of the GA Forestry Commission.

So far, it's burnt the first layer of peat, which has left the roots of many trees completely exposed. And with winds gusting up to 15 miles per hour, it's created a new danger for those working the front lines.  "As the wind blows, it's blowing these trees down," said Reisch.

But these fallen trees can cause other problems as well. "The peat is almost like a big piece of charcoal and as long as it burns, we'll see flare ups," said Reisch.

 "Which will continue to go on and on until we get enough rain to put the fire out," said Smith.

Which means these trees could add new fuel to the fire if a flare up occurs. But the forestry department will be at working 24 hours a day to assure that doesn't happen.

To help protect teams working in the peat bogs, the forestry commission has set up a watch system. A lookout will warn the crews if a tree begins to fall. So far, no firefighters have been hurt by falling trees.


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