Georgia expands mandatory evacuations as fire moves into Florida

Georgia expands mandatory evacuations as fire moves into Florida

A mandatory evacuation order was issued Saturday for a town in Georgia's southernmost county after a wildfire in the Okefenokee Swamp began encroaching onto private property.

The wildfire was sparked by lightning April 6 and has since burned nearly entirely within the Okefenokee refuge boundaries - and some public forest land in north Florida - for the past month.

At least a dozen firefighters from the county have gone to help fight the West Mims fire along the Georgia Florida state line.

The fire is only 12 percent contained as of this weekend, with more than 530 people working on containment and also controlling structure fires in the area.

The fire was burning Tuesday within a few miles (kilometers) of the small, towns of St. George and Moniac in southeast Georgia.

The area of evacuation for St. George is to the east side of Highway 121 from Crawford Loop Road south to Highway 94. No evacuations are planned in the western portion of the fire zone, including Fargo, Davis said. Boatright said it will stay open indefinitely.

"It's absolutely not the best idea", Burnsed said.

"It's my home. I want to protect my home and my neighbors".

Smoke is seen during sunset as the West Mims fire burns in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, in a photo released April 29, 2017.

There are now 535 personnel assigned the to fire, a high since lightning triggered it April 6, and, "There're more coming", Zwierzchowski said.

The multi-agency command team fighting the fire had reported no homes burned.

The fire in total has burned 129,856 acres, and wind gusts and dry conditions were raising the risk of the fire spreading, the statement said. Pooler fire Chief Wade Simmons says shifting weather patterns may keep his crews down there and force the department to even send more and rotate in and out.

He says the techniques used between controlled burns and wildfire containment are very similar. It was taking off and landing at Chattanooga, Tennessee, almost 400 miles (645 kilometers) northwest of the fire. There are now 10 helicopters (eight heavies and two lights) and three air tankers dropping water and retardant on this fire.

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