Up In Flames: More Than A Dozen Wildfires Burning In NE Florida

Apr 17, 2017

West Mims fire burns in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Credit Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Crews continue to battle a huge wildfire that started nearly two weeks ago in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Georgia and has now spread to Northeast Florida.

More than 200 firefighters are using helicopters, fire engines, bulldozers and tractors to try and control the nearly 20,200 acre blaze in the Osceola National Forest and the John M. Bethea State Forest called the West Mims fire.

It was 3 percent contained as of Monday afternoon, according to refuge authorities.

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is still open to visitors, although park rangers say some activities have been curtailed.

A burn ban that includes campfires and charcoal grills is also in effect.

Meanwhile, the Florida Forest Service is monitoring more than a dozen active wildfires on the First Coast.

The Decoy Road fire in Green Cove Springs has burned nearly 200 acres since it started April 11.  State forestry officials said the fire is 90 percent contained.  The cause is under investigation.

Annaleasa Winter, a wildfire mitigation specialist with the Forest Service, said Floridians will likely see more wildfires before the danger finally passes.

“Fire season is going to be long this year and it’s going to be hot and dry," she said. "And we’re anticipating being very busy throughout the rest of April, through all of May and possibly even into June.”

In addition to three in Clay County, fires are also burning in Baker, Columbia, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties.

Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency, and the Florida National Guard on standby.

Wildfire mitigation specialist Annaleasa Winter said the FLBurnTools app lets you see where fires are burning.

Plus, Winter added, “it will allow you to determine we don’t have an authorization there and we don’t have a wildfire listed there so maybe I need to call 911 and let people know I see smoke in the woods.”

You can download it from the Florida Forest Service website.

Reporter Cyd Hoskinson can be reached at choskinson@wjct.org, 904-358-6351 and on Twitter @cydwjctnews.