West Mims Fire in Georgia sends ash to Jacksonville, Florida

The sprawling West Mims Fire that has been burning since April, largely in a south Georgia swamp, broke containment lines on Saturday and sent ash falling as far away as downtown Jacksonville, Florida. 

The lightning-caused fire was reported on April 6 in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and has burned more than 135,000 acres. Crews on Saturday dealt with gusty winds and relative humidity levels around 18 percent, which drove the blaze past containment lines and fanned it farther east.

“The fire moved aggressively to the east and southeast against an enhanced air and ground attack today,” officials wrote in a Saturday night InciWeb update. 

The fire and a blanket of falling ash on Saturday unnerved some residents near downtown Jacksonville, the Florida Times-Union reported. 

Similar conditions were forecast for Sunday, and evacuation orders remained in place. Additional heavy air tankers were expected to arrive on Sunday from California and Montana to assist the approximately 535 personnel assigned to the incident.

The West Mims Fire remains just 12 percent contained. No injuries have been reported. Full containment isn’t expected until Nov. 1.

What does Logistics do on a wildfire in Florida?

Above: Logistics Section Chief Cindy Schiffer with the Southern Area Blue Team. From the video.

We appreciate it when local units put together short videos, especially at a fire, showing the public what they are doing. This particular one, filmed at the 21,000-acre Cowbell Fire at Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida, features Logistics Section Chief Cindy Schiffer explaining how her section provides the support firefighters need to continue battling the fire. It’s very well done.

Dozer burns in Florida wildfire, operator unhurt

Dozer burnover Okeechobee County
Dozer burnover in Okeechobee County, Florida. Photo by Florida Forest Service.

The Florida Forest Service reported that on Sunday a tractor plow was overrun by a fast-moving fire and was destroyed in Okeechobee County, near NW 144 Ave. and NW 286 Street, 13 miles southwest of Yeehaw Junction. The operator escaped and was not injured.

The fire eventually burned about 450 acres.

map Dozer burnover Okeechobee County
Map showing the location of the dozer burnover Okeechobee County, Florida.

West Mims Fire burns in Florida and Georgia

map West Mims Fire
The West Mims Fire is burning on the border of Georgia and Florida. The red and yellow squares represent heat detected by a satellite, the most recent (red) was seen at 2:19 p.m. EDT April 10, 2017. (click to enlarge)

(Originally published at 5:20 p.m. EDT April 10, 2017.)

Since the West Mims Fire started from a lightning strike on April 6 it has burned about 3,800 acres, growing substantially on Sunday and Monday.

The fire is 16 miles west of St. George, Georgia at the southern end of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and on private land just north of Florida Highway 2 on both sides of the Georgia/Florida state line.

Most fires in the Refuge, which is a Wilderness Area, are allowed to burn with little interference from humans, but with it on private land outside the Refuge firefighters are taking action to stop the spread.

Personnel with the Georgia Forestry Commission and Florida Forest Service are working the fire along with federal firefighters from the Refuge.

Below is an excerpt from an April 9 press release, but with the rapid growth of the fire on the 9th and 10th, it appears that fire managers have stepped up their suppression activity since the reported April 8 meeting:

…A meeting was held the morning of April 8 to discuss strategy. Representatives were present from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Forestry Commission, U.S. Forest Service, Florida Forest Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Baker County Emergency Management. Monitoring of the West Mims Fire will continue over the next 48 hours. Personnel with the Florida Forest Service at John M. Bethea State Forest will refresh fire lines on the southeast corner off Perimeter Road.

There will be a follow-up meeting on Friday, April 14 of the primary responders to re-evaluate the status of the wildfire and to discuss future strategy of attack.

west mims fire
An undated and uncaptioned photo posted on the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page on April 9, 2017.

Fire burns thousands of acres in Broward County, Florida

wildfire broward county florida
Radar image showing smoke blowing to the south from the Holiday Fire in Broward County, Florida at 1:15 p.m. EDT April 7, 2017.

A wildfire that started on April 4 had burned approximately 4,600 acres by noon on Friday, April 7. Named the Holiday Fire, it is south of Highway 75 and west of Highway 27 and Krome Avenue.

Mack’s Fish Camp is threatened and was closed Friday morning. The fire started near Everglades Holiday Park in Pembroke Pines and has spread at least two miles to the south.

The entire state of Florida is under a Red Flag Warning on Friday. The weather forecast for the fire area for Friday includes temperatures in the mid 70s, relative humidity in the high 20s, and winds out of the north or northwest at 10 to 15 mph.

Man burning books ignites 696 acres and 2 homes

Above: The Garfield Road Fire in Florida, March 23, 2017. Florida Forest Service photo.

A Nassau County, Florida man intended to burn paperback books but the fire in his backyard escaped and blackened 696 acres and destroyed 2 homes. Approximately 19 outbuildings and 6 homes were damaged in the community 20 miles west of Jacksonville.

Annaleasa Winter of the Florida Forest Service said it was an illegal burn, and that it’s against the law to burn trash in Florida.