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article imageOkefenokee wildfire grows to over 30 square miles in size

By Karen Graham     Apr 17, 2017 in Environment
Fargo - Lightning started a fire in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge near the Georgia-Florida state line on April 6. The fire has now grown to cover about 30 square miles (80 square kilometers) of public lands, threatening nearby towns.
Residents of the small Clinch County, Georgia town of Fargo have already been warned by emergency responders to be prepared to evacuate if the fire should get to Georgia Highway 177, reports the Valdosta Daily Times. The boundary of the fire is about 7 miles from Fargo, on the Okefenokee's western border.
Leland Bass, a spokesman for the Georgia Forestry Commission, said on Monday, according to the Associated Press, that dry and windy conditions caused the blaze to more than double over the past weekend.
Karl Musser, created - based on USGS data.
Over 200 firefighters from Georgia, Florida, and other states, along with one helicopter, 17 engines, five bulldozers, 27 tractor plows and one hot-shot crew., have so far been able to contain the wildfire within the Okefenokee refuge, the neighboring Osceola National Forest, and John M. Bethea State Forest in Florida.
Roads in Georgia and Florida impacted by the heavy smoke from the fire have been closed at different times. Currently, Florida State Road 2/Georgia State Road 94 from the agricultural check station at the state line to U.S. 441 in Fargo is closed due to heavy smoke and fire crew operations.
Aerial operations in the  Okefenokee Refuge April 11  2017.
Aerial operations in the Okefenokee Refuge April 11, 2017.
Florida Forest Service
The Okefenokee Swamp is a shallow, 438,000-acre (1,770 square kilometers), peat-filled wetland straddling the Georgia–Florida line. It is the largest "blackwater" swamp in North America. A good part of the swamp lies within the boundaries of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the Okefenokee Wilderness.
Naturally occurring fires, like this fire that was started by lightning, are actually needed every once in awhile. The fires keep the swamp from getting overgrown and eventually converting to uplands. But there is some disagreement as to the environmental effects and the impact on wildlife with especially large fires, like the one in January 2012 that burned over 315,000 acres of the swamp.
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