Wildfire fund to offer relief - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Wildfire fund to offer relief

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Photo courtesy: Jeff Vanuga, Georgia NCRS Photo courtesy: Jeff Vanuga, Georgia NCRS

January 7, 2008

Waycross - It's been nine months since wildfires scorched Southeast Georgia. More than a half million acres burned, millions of dollars worth of timber charred. 

Much of that was private family land.  "People that suffered these loses, some of them are old and retired and simply don't have the money to put it back," says Joe Hopkins, a family forest owner.

"They are the ones that its most difficult to recover from natural devastation," adds Monte Simpson from Weyerhaeuser forest products.

Many lost their businesses, income, and even homes, but now help is on the way. 

A group of private, state and federal stakeholders has established the Georgia wildfire relief fund to help families re-establish their forest land and wildlife habitat.

They hope to raise seven million dollars but say it will take more than that for these families to recover.

"Stumpage value, which is the value of the timber lost, was over $15 million for these family forest owners," says Bob Farris, Interim Director for the Georgia Forestry Commission.  "The projections are that it will take eight million dollars to replant all those acres."

And it will take decades to rebuild.  "The fires, it will take several years, provided we get the funds to put this land back into forest.  So this will be here with us for a number of years," Simpson adds. 

But the funds will help these families get back on track while benefiting the state's water quality, wildlife and economy.

Anyone needing assistance or wishing to make a donation can contact Lynn Carter, the Program Manager for the Wildlife Relief Fund.  Her phone number is 912-367-7679.

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