Rain and higher humidity helped fire crews battling the West Mims wildfire that authorities said had burned 152,147 acres along the Georgia-Florida state line and was 17 percent contained as of Sunday morning.
Firefighters continue working to contain and suppress all areas of the blaze in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and nearby areas of Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida, according to refuge officials.
Saturday’s rain provided some relief as portions of the blaze received as much as 2 inches while others got less than 1/4-inch. The moisture was expected to to lower but not eliminate the fire activity Sunday.
Authorities warned the fire could move toward the southwest Sunday afternoon or evening.
More than 1,000 lightning strikes were documented during Saturday’s thunderstorms. One lightning strike ignited a new blaze about eight miles northwest of St. George in Charlton County in Southeast Georgia. Firefighters quickly contained it and the burn area was about a quarter acre, authorities said.
The West Mims Fire, sparked April 6 by a lightning strike in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Georgia, is being fought by 864 local, county, state and federal personnel from multiple states.
Firefighters were using 11 helicopters, five fixed-wing air tanker, 97 wildland fire engines and 80 bulldozers. There also were three 20-member crews and various overhead and support positions.
All evacuation orders had been rescinded by Sunday morning. All roads had been reopened except for those on the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which remain closed.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers continued monitoring roads for haze/smoke conditions including those near Florida 2 and 121 in Baker County, Interstate 10 from Duval to Columbia County, and U.S. 90 from U.S. 301 to I-10 as a result of the West Mims fire.
Those conditions might affect roads in Baker, Bradford, Duval and Nassau counties, and visibility could deteriorate quickly due to smoke as a result of the blaze according to the Highway Patrol.
Jacksonville.com and Monday’s Times-Union will have more on this developing story.
Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075