Okefenokee Wildfire Points To Dry Conditions In Georgia

May 20, 2019

A wildfire in a small part of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is under control, but the fire points to already dry conditions in the state.

The 180-acre tract of upland longleaf pine trees in the over 400,000-acre refuge burned last burned three years ago and had been slated soon for a low-intensity prescribed burn this spring by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Fire benefits the longleaf pine trees and animals, which depend on it like the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

According to Susan Heisey of Fish and Wildlife,  a lightning strike beat the agency to the punch. So, while fire was expected, Heisey said wildfire did not allow land managers the fine control they wanted in order to help out wildlife.

"The intensity of the fire is not necessarily what we're looking for and what we would normally want to have happen during a controlled burn situation," Heisey said.

A quick response by firefighters who worked into the night cutting a plow line around the blaze means the fire is 90% contained. Susan Heisey said late spring prescribed burns in the Okefenokee are on hold.

"It's very hot and humidities are going to be low this week," she said. "And so that's not ideal for prescribed burning in our situation."

Most of the lower two thirds of Georgia are either considered abnormally dry or in moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Accordingly,  Heisey said for the time being there is a ban on campfires and grilling in the Okefenokee.