Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Fish and Wildlife Service
Folkston, GA 31537
West Mims Fire Update - Monday, May 8, 2017
FAST FACTS: The West Mims Fire is currently 133,744 acres and 12% contained.
Personnel & Equipment:
· There are 624 personnel assigned to the incident.
· Firefighting resources include 10 helicopters, 59 wildland fire engines, five bulldozers, 37 tractor plows, two 20-person hot shot crews, and various overhead and support positions.
Current Fire Situation: The fire continued an aggressive push to the south ahead of gusty northwest winds yesterday. The fire gained about 4,000 acres, pushing across Hwy 94 at Boggy Break. Contingency resources were called in to work the fire’s south side because of active burning there. The breach was lined overnight after being cooled with retardant and water drops and ground forces augmented with tractor plows. Eight heavy helicopters and four large air tankers worked continuously from 8am until sunset.
At approximately 4 pm, a tractor plow was overrun by fire. The operator walked to the road and is safe with no injuries. The incident occurred north of Highway 94, close to Boggy Road. The tractor became high-centered on a stump.
Billys Island continues to burn. The west side of the fire reburned through needlecast pine needles that fall to the ground after a tree is damaged but not completely consumed. Firefighters coordinated suppression efforts with salvage logging operations to protect timber resources and equipment. Lines on the north and east sides were defended by engines and aircraft.
Weather & Expected Fire Behavior: High pressure will build across the Gulf of Mexico which will continue a very dry north north-west wind flow across West Mims. Temperatures will warm to near 90 degrees. Humidity will likely dip to critical levels below 20%. During the afternoon, sea breezes from both the east and the west will impact the fire creating light but unpredictable winds. Drought conditions and weather continue to provide a high potential for large fire growth and extreme burning conditions. Active burning should be expected in all areas that have available fuel. The most critical area of concern will be if the fire spreads toward communities and transportation routes. Fire established in pine plantations continues to affect the local economy. High rates of spread and long range spotting could move the fire rapidly through the commercial timber. The southeast and south can expect active fire behavior again today.
Planned Actions: Aircraft and ground crews will be working to maintain lines built around the Hwy 94 slopover last night. There will be a full complement of aircraft including helicopters and fixed wing air tankers to battle the fire on the south and southeast perimeter. Structure protection crews will be working in the St George area. Sprinklers are being upgraded and placed around structures on Stephen C. Foster State Park. Crews will be monitoring for fire progression on Billys Island and Strange Island.
Air Quality Report:Daytime impacts for downwind locations such as Yulee and Jacksonville should be minimal during the day as the plume is expected to remain aloft. The smoke could still settle at night in these areas and cause some level of reduced visibility.
Current Evacuations and Road Closures:
· The St. George evacuation area has now been updated to include Canaday Loop and Moniac residents. A shelter is open at the Camden County Recreation Center, 1050 Wildcat Drive in Kingsland. Phone 912-729-5600.
· Hwy 121 is closed from Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge south to the intersection of Hwy 94.
· Hwy 94 is closed from Hwy 121 to Hwy 185.
· Hwy 177 is closed 11 miles north of the intersection with GA 94 at the entrance to the Stephen C. Foster State Park
· Roads may be temporarily closed, as needed, due to smoke or equipment movement.
Driving restrictions & safety precautions:
Due to fire activity, motorists may encounter firefighters, firefighting equipment, log trucks, and smoke along roads around the refuge. Please avoid driving on roads near fire activity, unless necessary, even if the roads are open.
Temporary Flight Restrictions: A Temporary Flight Restriction 7/1342) in place. This includes any unmanned aircraft systems (aka “drones”).
Status of Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Entrances:
· Main Entrance (Suwannee Canal Recreation Area, Folkston): CLOSED
· Secondary East Entrance (Kingfisher Landing, between Folkston and Waycross): OPEN - day use only
Note: Wilderness Canoe overnight stops are closed.
· West Entrance (Stephen C. Foster State Park, Fargo): CLOSED
· Secondary West Entrance (Suwannee River Sill, Fargo): CLOSED
· North Entrance (Okefenokee Swamp Park, Waycross): OPEN
Burn Bans are in place for the following areas:
· Charlton County, GA; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge; Nassau County, FL; Baker County, FL
· Clinch and Ware Counties in GA are not issuing burn permits at this time due to high fire danger
West Mims Fire History: This lightning-caused fire was reported on April 6, 2017, approximately 2.5 miles northeast of the Eddy Fire Tower in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The Southern Area Type 1 Red Incident Management Team is managing the fire with Georgia Forestry Commission, Greater Okefenokee Association of Landowners (GOAL), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Forest Service, and U.S. Forest Service.
Stay informed about the West Mims Fire! To receive the updates by email:
Text: WESTMIMS to 22828