Burn bans are in place across a large swath of the state. Forecast fire danger indices for Tuesday called for “very high” or “extreme” fire danger in counties across the state.
“Florida wildfires have burned nearly four-and-a-half times more acreage under state jurisdiction than the same time last year,” said S. Kinley Tuten, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, according to USA TODAY.
“Florida is in the middle of its worst wildfire season in years – with no end in sight,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, CBS-Miama reported Monday.
While much of the United States has seen reprieve from drought conditions in recent months, the situation has worsened significantly across Florida since February, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.