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West Mims Fire

Unit Information

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Fish and Wildlife Service
Folkston, GA 31537

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West Mims Fire Morning Update May 19, 2017

West Mims Fire Wildfire
News – 5/19/2017

Fire Statistics:

· The fire is currently 152,231 acres (no change) and 40 percent contained.

· Firefighting resources include 10 helicopters, 4 fixed-wing air tankers, 140 wildland fire engines, 66 bulldozers, 5 hand crews, and 1,064 personnel.

Fire Situation and Planned Actions:

“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. Despite persistent hot and dry conditions, very little smoke and no new starts were observed yesterday. However, last evening a small spot fire—25 square feet—south of Highway 94 near Road 47/Road 8 on the southeast side was detected and extinguished by a crew patrolling the area.

Firefighters on the southern part of the fire, west of St. George, remain focused on mop-up, and containment is gradually increasing as a result. Crews in the contingency group continued to work up to 15 miles from the fire’s northernmost point along the Swamps Edge Break west of Folkston, south of Waycross, and east of Homerville. Contingency planning is necessary because fires in the swamp tend to spring to life after being inactive for many days or even weeks.

Air operations supported firefighters yesterday through reconnaissance flights. A multi-mission aircraft (MMA)–one of only two in the country—is assigned to the incident for a week, and yesterday was its first operational day. The MMA flies at 10,000 feet, outside the temporary flight restriction, allowing it to work simultaneously with other incident aircraft involved in fire suppression or support. On the West Mims Fire its primary function is to immediately detect hotspots—some as small as a laptop—lingering near firelines. Hotspot locations are sent to firefighters on the ground through smartphones and tablets, which they can navigate to and put out. Firefighters can also use smartphones and tablets as thermal imaging cameras, allowing them to locate invisible hotspots that are no longer producing smoke.

Crews patrolling and monitoring the western containment line through the night, reported smoke but no glow from lingering hotspots on Strange, Billys, and Honey Islands. Containment lines are strong and holding, but they are monitored day and night to reduce the likelihood of spot fires or new starts getting established and quickly spreading.

Weather and Fire Behavior:

Today could be the last day in a string of hot and relatively dry days in the fire area. Temperatures will again be in the low 90s. The minimum relative humidity has been gradually increasing and will be in the high 30-percent range today. East-southeast wind are not expected to be greater than 10 mph, but gusts this afternoon could be slightly stronger. Beginning this weekend and extending into next week, a more unsettled and active weather pattern is expected to affect the fire area. A sea breeze and a cold front are likely on Sunday, followed by a 60-percent chance of rain on Monday.

“The fire’s been surprisingly quiet,” a fire-behavior analyst told crews at this morning’s operational briefing. The fire continues to smolder, creep, and reburn. However, he warned firefighters not to get complacent because the potential for significantly more active fire behavior and new starts remains high.

Air Quality:

All communities in the fire’s vicinity have an air-quality-index rating of “good” today, meaning specialists do not anticipate any health concerns from smoke particulates unless smoke output increases this afternoon. With today’s east and southeast winds, light amounts of smoke could affect communities west and northwest of the fire, such as Fargo and Valdosta.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge:

· The refuge remains closed.

· 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.

· North Entrance (Okefenokee Swamp Park, Waycross): open

· West Entrance (Stephen C. Foster State Park, Fargo): closed

· Secondary West Entrance (Suwannee River Sill, Fargo): closed

Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR):

A TFR is in place for all aircraft, including unmanned aircraft:

Burn Bans:

· Florida: Baker and Nassau counties

· Georgia: Brantley, Charlton, Clinch, Glynn, Pierce, and Ware counties

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 Red Type 1 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 USDA Forest Service.

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