Large Southeast Georgia Wildfire Continues To Burn, Threatens Wildlife Refuge

Saturday, April 21st 2007, 3:03 pm
By: News On 6

WAYCROSS, Ga. (AP) _ A wildfire in southeast Georgia that has burned more than 70 square miles of forest was less than half a mile from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, a forestry official said Saturday.

The fire was still only 35 percent contained, though lighter winds out of the east were pushing it away from Waycross, a city of more than 15,000 people just northeast of the massive blaze, said Eric Mosley, a spokesman for the Georgia Forestry Commission.

People in the communities of Manor and Homerville, which were in the fire's path Saturday morning, were asked to be on alert, Mosley said. No new evacuations were requested Saturday, after about 6,000 people were forced or asked to evacuate earlier this week.

The fire started Monday when a tree fell on a power line. Fueled by gusty winds, the fire has consumed more than 45,000 acres of forest and destroyed about 18 homes.

On Saturday, the fire was less than half a mile from entering the Okefenokee refuge, one of the nation's best-preserved wetland areas, according to refuge spokeswoman John Calabrese.

The ecosystem there is fire-dependent, so fire inside the refuge ``wouldn't be such a bad thing'' for plants and animals there, Calabrese said.