West Mims Wildfire Expands Beyond Okefenokee Refuge, Triggers Evacuations

Fire forces evacuations near Ga.'s Okefenokee Swamp in US

Fire forces evacuations near Ga.'s Okefenokee Swamp in US

Earlier Saturday the St. George emergency manager said the entire unincorporated community of about 2,000 people was under a mandatory evacuation order, according to West Mims Public Information Officer Michael Davis.

A wildfire that has consumed more than 133,000 acres in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has escaped containment, forcing the mandatory evacuation of homes in South Charlton County.

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. Wind gusts and dry conditions are raising the risk of it spreading.

Although the fire has not jumped the St. Marys River, which makes up the state line, authorities have evacuated some parts of Nassau County, Fla., as well.

A shelter has been established at the Camden County Recreation Center at 1050 Wildcat Drive in Kingsland.

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"Anything that can burn will burn if a hot ember falls", park officials and firefighters said.

Charlton County, Georgia is getting help from different departments across the state, including Crisp County, to fight the West Mims Fire.

"We advise all residents in these areas to follow this evacuation order for your safety", the agency said in a statement.

The fire forced the closure Monday of Charlton County schools.

By Sunday, it had burned more than 130,000 acres.

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According to InciWeb, the West Mims Fire is estimated to be contained by November 1.

Saturday night, the fire was estimated to have burned almost 139,000 acres, but the size of the fire was dropped to just under 130,000 acres Sunday morning.

The multi-agency command team fighting the fire had reported no homes burned. County Administrator Shawn Boatright said it will stay open indefinitely. She said for the first time, her family has had to evacuate because of a fire.

People who stay behind only manage to get in firefighters' way, Baysinger said. They do this to promote a healthy vegetation cycle in the area, but also to prevent wildfires.

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