USA — A series of new wildfires sparked by recent lightning and stoked by continuing dry hot weather were burning in Southeast Georgia as major blazes in and near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge remained active Wednesday.
Burning since April 28, the largest blaze remains the Honey Prairie Fire, which had burned 160,484 acres and still was 80 percent contained, said Alexis Brooks, a fire information officer.
The Race Pond Fire, discovered May 25, was up to 66 percent contained with 7,792 acres burned along U.S. 1 south of Waycross, Brooks said.
Since Monday, nearly 50 new wildfires have broken out across the region including at least a half-dozen discovered Wednesday afternoon, said Frank Sorrells, manager of the Georgia Forestry Commission’s district office in Waycross.
The Paxton Road Fire, ignited by lightning Monday night, took off Wednesday to burn deeper into the swamp, Sorrells said.
It had burned about 300 acres by 3 p.m. Sorrells estimated the fire would grow to nearly 500 acres by 5 p.m. based on its intensity and the weather conditions.
“It’s burning pretty intensely. It’s moving southwest in the swamp toward the blackened area of the Honey Prairie Fire,” Sorrells told the Times-Union.
Firefighters anticipate the two fires will join up, he said.
“As for creating problems? That just means there will be more fire to contain,” Sorrells said.
Also burning in the refuge, the Durdin Prairie Fire grew about 4 acres Wednesday. Estimated at 18 acres, it was “just sitting there” about a mile into the refuge, Sorrells said.
Firefighters contained Brantley and Appling county fires discovered late Tuesday afternoon. Both the Kneeknocker Swamp Fire in Brantley County and Appling County fire, which had no name, were sparked by the same thunderstorms late Monday that ignited the Paxton Road and Durdin Prairie fires, he said.
The Kneeknocker Swamp Fire burned 75 acres north of U.S. 82 between Nahunta and Hoboken by the time it was contained within fire breaks.
Thick smoke from that fire, state troopers said, contributed to two crashes involving a total of five cars on U.S. 82 near Brantley County High School about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Three people sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the collisions. One crash involved two cars, while the other involved three cars, troopers said.
Authorities closed the highway about three hours because of the smoke and crashes. It reopened about 9:45 a.m., troopers said.
In Appling County, a wildfire burned about 200 acres north of U.S. 341 behind Wayne State Prison between Odum and Surrency near the Appling-Wayne county line, Sorrells said.
He said six new small fires were reported Wednesday afternoon in Brantley, Pierce, Charlton, Coffee, Glynn and Bacon counties.
The Bacon and Coffee fires were re-burns. All were quickly contained.