As the fire is reportedly out, and the West Mims Fire Incident Report has gone offline, we will cease our coverage and updates barring unexpected changes in the area.
The persistent wet weather has finally had a big payoff for the fight against the massive wildfire on the Florida-Georgia line.
On Monday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service Fire Management Division Southeast Region said the West Mims fire is now 90% contained. On Saturday, the fire had jumped to 85% containment, after sitting at 65% for some time. USFWS says the past 24 hours brought heavy rainfall that boosted numbers once again.
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge says the only hotspots now are in the southeast section of the fire, but fire managers are confident the perimeter around the fire has increased.
West Mims firefight gains ground at last
At long last, the fight against the West Mims wildfire has gained significant ground.
For the first time in about two weeks, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is reporting a change to the percentage of the fire that is contained, from 65 percent to 85 percent, despite that the fire’s footprint – roughly 152,000 acres – hasn’t changed materially.
The refuge reports, a surveillance flight on Thursday showed only hotspots located in the southeast section of the fire, west of St. George, Georgia.
A report issued Saturday indicates, “Fuel moisture remains high and higher relative humidity factors have allowed crews to concentrate on suppression repair”. But the same report notes caution about the possibility of lightning sparking a new fire.
Starting to Pick up Steam Again
The fire that has burned more than 150,000 acres in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is starting to pick up steam again, according to a firefighting spokeswoman.
The West Mims Fire, first reported on April 6, was starting to become “more active,” said Annaleasa Winter, public information officer for the fire’s command post.
“The most active portion is in the southern section,” she said. “We’re finding lots of heat in piles from logging operations, so we’re breaking those up.”
Deep-burning peat is also creating problems, Winter said.
Temperatures in the 90s and lack of recent rain are hampering the situation, she said. “There’s a chance of rain for later in the week,” she said. “Right now, we just can’t put enough water on it.”
With rain also comes lightning, which means the classic late-afternoon South Georgia thunderstorms the National Weather Service foresees for the region this week could spark more fire outbreaks, Winter said.
Headlines fade away; firefight and drought continues
Remember the West Mims Fire?
The massive blaze that generated national media attention for days, threatened a Georgia town and sent ash falling over densely populated cities has all-but-faded away for most of the country. Aided by Mother Nature, crews continue to gain the upper hand on the 152,000-acre lightning-sparked wildfire, which was 60 percent contained as of this weekend.
Seven helicopters, two air tankers, 135 wildland fire engines, 62 bulldozers, five hand crews, and 1,025 personnel were assigned to the blaze Sunday.
“The fire remained relatively inactive,” officials said in an update.
While “inactive” is the name of the game for the West Mims Fire — and for spring fire situations across much of the U.S. inundated with spring storms and abundant moisture — it’s anything but quiet in the Sunshine State.
Twenty-eight fires in excess of 100 acres burned over the weekend within Florida Fire Service jurisdiction, charring 36,000 acres, according to state figures.
Evening Summary May 21, 2017
Fire Situation and Planned Actions:
The West Mims Fire containment remains at 60 percent and 152, 478 acres, with 989 fire personnel assigned. The fire remained relatively inactive again today. There were no new starts. Fire personnel continued to improve firelines, extinguishing all heat sources (“mop up”), in some cases up to 300 feet from the fireline in the southern part of the fire west of St. George. In the eastern and western parts of the fire areas, planning and preparation continued to take place in the event the fire progressed in those directions. Crews and equipment also continued to work today along the Swamps Edge Break west of Folkston, south of Waycross, and east of Homerville to protect those communities should the fire progress north. Fire managers are coordinating with private landowners to facilitate access for salvage logging north and south of Highway 94 in the fire’s southeastern tip. A road-maintenance group is grading and stabilizing roads affected by fire-suppression activities wherever needed, but mainly in the southeast area of the fire on Road 8 and Road 37.
Under current conditions, night operations will move to a full swing shift Monday, operating from 2pm to 2am each day thereafter. Day operations will continue to start at 7:30am
Focusing on initial attack until significant rain occurs is still a priority. Tomorrow’s operational priorities remain mop up, initial attack, readiness, contingency planning, and line construction. A transition briefing was held today for the new incoming Florida Gold Incident Management Team and US Forest Service Atlanta National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) team, that will assume command of the West Mims Fire at 7:30pm on May 22.
West Mims fire ‘a lot quieter’, fire officials say
The West Mims fire has not grown in at least three days. The fire is just over 152,000 acres in size and 40% contained. That’s an improvement from 23% since Tuesday.
Over 1,000 personnel from at least 36 states are assigned to fight the fire.
“The fire’s been a lot quieter than you’d expect considering how intensely it burned a couple weeks ago,” Incident Commander Mike Dueitt told crews at this morning’s operational briefing.
There was one very small 25 square foot flare up on Thursday south of Highway 94 near Road 47/Road 8 on the southeast side was detected and extinguished by a crew patrolling the area.
A crew from the West Metro fire department from Colorado captured this amazing video of a “smoke tornado” while working on the fire lines.
West Mims Fire Evening Summary
Despite persistent hot, dry conditions, the fire was minimally active today. Smoke in the fire’s interior was minimal, and no new starts were detected. Firefighters continue to progress with mop-up operations, allowing fire managers to increase containment from 31 to 40 percent today. Crews in the contingency group continue to work along the swamp’s eastern, northern, and western perimeter up to 15 miles from the fire’s northernmost point. Air operations supported firefighters primarily through reconnaissance flights.
Timber industry faces severe loss as wildfire burns
The West Mims fire has scorched more than 150,000 acres of land since it began in early April, and only about a quarter of it has been contained.
Fire officials say nearly 32,000 of those acres are private property.
Some of that property belongs to the Toledo Manufacturing Company, a long-standing member of the timber industry in St. George, Georgia.
“Every time I drive through it, I get sick,” says President Joe Hopkins.
More than 30 acres of burned pine trees have been cleared from his lot, and Hopkins says there are nearly 1,300 acres to go.
The burned timber will sell for a fraction of the original cost, if it sells at all.
Hopkins says his business is facing huge damages.
“We don’t get to write any of this loss off, the way the IRS code is. According to the IRS, we haven’t lost anything.”
Crews making some headway on containing West Mims Fire
Crews are slowly starting to gain ground on the West Mims fire at the Florida/Georgia border, but they are hoping those gains are not just temporary.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire had scorched 152,231 acres and is 18% contained, the US Fish & Wildlife Service said.
Nearly 950 personnel from at least 36 states are assigned to fight the fire.
Fire crews say there was no new fire activity over the past 24 hours and better conditions have helped crews reinforce and mop up fire lines, particularly on the southern half of the fire.
However, there is concern the high temperatures, combined with low humidity and gusty winds, could allow for the fire to spread further.
West Mims fire now over 150,000 acres and 16 percent contained
The West Mims fire has burned about 150,306 acres and is 16 percent contained. As of Saturday, 804 personnel are on the scene fighting the fire.
Thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon brought rain and cooler temperatures, helping firefighters improve containment lines and treat hot spots in all areas of the fire.
Highway 121 and Highway 94 have reopened.
The evacuation order for Georgia Bend, St. George, Canaday Loop, and Moniac residents was lifted on Saturday, May 13.
West Mims fire crews see some relief with weekend rain but not letting guard down
Fire crews are being urged to stay alert despite the West Mims wildfire not growing overnight Sunday into Monday.
The fire has scorched more than 152,000 acres and is 17 percent contained. Nearly 900 people from across the country are fighting the flames.
Crews say the weekend rain helped hold fire lines, but hot, dry weather over the next several days will increase the threat.
Blake Addison and his teammates traveled from Alabama to join the fight against the wildfire in the Okefenokee Swamp.
“We try to go back to make sure there’s no smoky area so that when things get hot again they don’t start flaming again,” Addison said.
With the largest wildfire in the nation on their hands, the task is not easy.
It’s their third of 14 days away from their families. Action News Jax met with them as they headed back into the woods for their Monday shift.
Fox News Report – West Mims wildfire could last for months
More evacuations ordered as West Mims Fire grows, scorching over 140,000 acres
Mandatory evacuations continue for the massive wildfire burning in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge near the Florida-Georgia border.
Mandatory evacuations expanded on Tuesday to encompass the entire southern half of Charlton County, Georgia. This includes the communities of St. George and Moniac. Residents in Western Nassau County, Florida, have also been told to prepare for evacuations if the fire continues to spread.
Some schools in the area have reopened after being closed on Monday.
Students in the St. George area will not attend classes for the rest of the week, according to Charlton County Schools.
Firefighters and Charlton County emergency services personnel plan to facilitate structure protection for areas near the fire.
West Mims Fire nears 108,000 acres as new team takes over
The day after rain fell on the Okefenokee Swamp, the West Mims Fire burned 7,000 more acres and some of the new fire may have been triggered by a thunderstorm lightning strike.
The fire is nearing 108,000 acres and the new growth was all inside the swamp, although some of it was on private land outside the boundaries of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Some of the 466 personnel assigned to the fire were conducting strategic firings along the east side of Georgia 177, which leads to Stephen C. Foster State Park, according to the West Mims Fire incident team.
About half of the growth was in the southeast corner of refuge where the most recent map showed that the fire had burned outside the refuge boundary.
The property is owned by Toledo Manufacturing and Joe Hopkins, president of the timber company, said Wednesday morning that it was being treated as a spot over from the main fire, but he believed it was triggered by a lightning strike from Monday night’s thunderstorms.
Susan Heisey, supervisory ranger of the refuge, said a lightning strike had been confirmed in the area but she did not believe the new burn affected any planted timber.
“It was outside the refuge boundary, but it’s still part of the swamp,” she said. “That, historically, is an area that has not burned in the past two fires [in 2007 and 2011]. It’s wet. They weren’t expecting it to grow in that area.”