Ga. Firefighters Struggle to Extinguish Spot Fires Near Wildifre

May 1, 2007

Several rural homes were evacuated in southeastern Georgia after spot fires ignited across a highway from a massive wildfire, and firefighters struggled to put them out before they could spread in the miles of tinder-dry forest beyond, authorities said.

About 30 miles from Waycross, Ga., another fire broke out in Atkinson County and burned at least 700 acres, said Buzz Weiss, spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. It posed no immediate threat to people living in the area.

The larger fire has consumed nearly 100 square miles of drought-parched forest and swampland in southeast Georgia since it ignited April 16.

Firefighters were patrolling a 16-mile stretch of U.S. 1, which links Waycross with Jacksonville, Fla., and set controlled burns to prevent the blaze from spreading into acres of forest beyond the road. The highway remained closed.

“We are still in the throes of a very, very difficult effort and we anticipate this fire burning intensely for at least another week – and maybe another month,” Weiss said.

Weary residents welcomed the shifting wind, which blew the smoke from the towns and into the swampland.

About half the blaze was under control, emergency responders said. A separate smaller blaze ignited near U.S. 301 after a passing train leaked fuel, but Weiss said firefighters have contained all but 10 percent of that fire.

“Right now we just have a bad situation where we have no rain, extremely low humidity and we’re dealing on a day-to-day basis with wind gusts and shifts,” Weiss said. “Those are the real recipes for a fire disaster – and that’s what we’re coping with.”

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