CLINCH CO., GA (WALB) - What started as a lightning strike April 6th has grown into a 23,000 acre inferno with no sign of letting up
The West Mims Fire has spread to the north and west - putting the town of Fargo on heightened alert . Tactical fighting is key with breaks being plowed to keep it from crossing highway 177 in Clinch County. Crews are now working through the night to keep it spreading.
"We have breaks in place with our dozers and we're using our engines to go around and our firefighters are mopping up any hot spots on the edge trying make that fire break a little wider to give us a buffer for the afternoon wind that's coming in," said Leland Bass, Georgia Forestry Commission PIO.
This is not the first time this area has been threatened by a massive wildfire. In 2007 the Georgia Bay Complex torched more than 440,000 acres - destroying nearly a dozen homes and wiping out $54 million worth of timber.
Four years later in 2011, Clinch County was once again threatened by wildfire but lessons were learned.
"This fire has moved a little quicker. Historically, that shows we've moved quicker than we did in 2011. In 2011 the guys did a great job of keeping things protected and keeping things in the swamp," Bass said.
Right now 300 fire personnel are on the ground, some from as far away as Texas, plowing breaks and mopping up already torched earth to box in the fire. Keeping the flames inside the Okefenokee is the goal.
"We just keep planning and building our box as it moves around and just keep in the box as it moves around to keep it out in the swamp and protect private land first," said Bass.
Six helicopters, 28 wildland engines, five bulldozers, and 36 tractor plows are all trying to contain the blaze.
As far as road closures are concerned, the service says that FL2/GA94 from the agricultural check station at the GA/FL line to U.S. 441 in Fargo will be open from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.
One of the biggest issues is the lack rain, with none in sight until Sunday. At it's current size, it would likely take a tropical system to put out the fire.
Right now it's estimated the West Mims fire will not be fully contained until mid June.
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