USA — Smoke from a wildfire that burned 1,000 acres of swamp in McIntosh County last week blanketed Darien Monday and forestry officials are warning that more fires are likely to occur unless conditions change.
The McIntosh County fire, which authorities say was set deliberately, came weeks after more than 2,250 acres burned in Brantley County in a fire also determined to be arson.
Georgia Forestry Commission Chief Ranger Rusty Clark says that without rain, marshlands and forests are in danger of natural or unintentional fires. Fire will be a problem as the summer months move in, he said.
“There’s no way we can spray water on thousands of acres. It’s going to remain a problem until Mother Nature helps us out (with rain),” Clark said.
That may be wishful thinking. Weather forecasters predict that Mother Nature will not offer much aid to coastal Georgia.
“Rainfall looks pretty slim this week,” National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Shashy said Monday. “By Sunday and into (next) Monday, there is a chance for some.” Right now, that chance is only about 20 percent, he said.
Rainfall could improve because climate models the weather service uses predict that precipitation will be in the normal range, overall, Shashy said.
Heat will continue to be an issue. Through June, temperatures in the Golden Isles are expected to be above normal, he said. The temperature already has climbed into the 80s this month.
Chief forest ranger Clark says the fire in McIntosh County is no longer a great threat, but the smoke has caused some problems. It prompted the McIntosh County School System to cancel classes Monday at McIntosh County Academy.
“It’s contained, but we’re talking about 1,000 acres of peat in a swamp and it will smolder for days,” Clark said.
Smoke will likely blanket the Darien area until wind blows it elsewhere, Clark said.
So far, Glynn County hasn’t faced large fires like those in Brantley and McIntosh counties, but Glynn County Fire Chief Al Thomas says residents should remain vigilant and practice safe fire habits.
“The foremost thing is to be careful with fire anytime you deal with it,” Thomas said. “Obey burn permit rules. If it’s windy, you don’t need to burn.”
Many wildfires are started a short distance from controlled fires, and often because people burned non-permitted materials. Residents are only allowed to burn natural vegetation, he said. Problems flare up when cardboard, trash and paper products get piled onto a blaze.
“The problem with them is the ashes fly up and can catch fires in other areas,” he said.
Before burning yard clippings, tree limbs or other materials, Thomas urges residents to make sure the area around a burn site is large enough to contain the fire and that it is free of leaves, pine straw or other flammable materials.