The biggest fire in the country, that started April 6, 2017 in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, has been out for about a month now, put out by rains, after massive containment efforts by fire crews from many counties and states. Apparently Lowndes County, Georgia, sent some assistance, since they have a special presentation about that fire on their agenda for this week. Their agendas never say whether such presentations are in the Work Session, which was this morning at 8:30 AM (it wasn’t) or in the Regular Session, Tuesday evening at 5:30 PM (must be then). Gretchen Quarterman was there this morning, and says they said the presenter will be someone unnamed from Charlton County. Gretchen will video the presentation for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE).
The fire within a week burned north into the Suwannee River watershed. A party of people we know, including one WWALS board member, were paddling across the Okefenokee Swamp over that weekend, but they had no problems, getting out just before all the trail camping spots were closed. I could smell the smoke in Lowndes County, 60 miles west of the fire, on 16 April 2017, and other winds blew the smoke as far north as Charlotte, NC.
By 30 April 2017, the fire had reached GA 177, the road to the Stephen C. Foster State Park entrance and had burned part of Billy’s Island, with crews from as far away as Denver, and NASA showing Jacksonville getting smoked:
NASA, Fire and Smoke, 26 April 2017, West Mims Fire on Florida/Georgia Border
By 3 May 2017, more than 100,000 acres had been burned, including much of the headwaters of the Suwannee River, and smoke had reached Lowndes County again. There was some rain, but not enough.
Eventually rain fell enough to finish the job. Currently, InciWeb in its latest update, dated 11 July 2017, says the fire is 100% contained and it burned 152,515 acres.
InciWeb’s last Daily Update was 11 June 2017 in which they said “Available firefighting resources include 165 personnel and 2 helicopters, 11 wildland fire engines, 2 bulldozers and 1 hand crew.”
Terry Dickson, jacksonville.com, 25 May 2017, Stephen C. Foster State Park reopens Friday, 35 days after West Mims Fire caused it to close.
Here are some pictures from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; date unknown.
That may look apocalyptic, but remember, this is a natural fire in a fire forest. However, as I remarked two months ago: Instead of 20 to 40 years apart now they’re 4 to 6 years apart. Sure, some of the longer intervals were in the fire-suppression times. But way back in the 19th century the intervals tended to be 20 years or longer. Something is different.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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