NAHUNTA, Ga. – A more than 250-acre wildfire that's burning south of Nahunta in Brantley County destroyed one home and damaged two others on Tuesday, officials said.
The people inside the destroyed home were able to escape, firefighters said. The other two homes were vacant at the time of the fire.
"As we were going by, my neighbor's house was totally engulfed. It was really scary," said resident Stacy Newton.
No injuries have been reported.
The wildfire began as a controlled burn that jumped the fire lines near Britt Sill and Foxwood roads, according to the Georgia Forestry Commission.
At last check, officials said the fire was 80 percent contained.
Crews were attacking the blaze with bulldozers and tankers on the ground, and with helicopters from the air, to keep flames from venturing outward toward other structures.
"With the helicopters working hot spots on the edges of it, it should be fairly easy to contain," said Leland Bass, of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
Stacy Newton's husband, Ronnie, said he first noticed smoke late Tuesday morning, but didn't see a fire.
"I called 911 and asked, 'Was there a controlled burn or something?' And the lady says, 'I don't know.' She called me back and said, 'Yes, but there's people on the scene and everything is OK,'" he said. “When we left, the fire was burning as we were leaving, so that tells you they didn’t do what they needed to do to stop it.”
The Newtons and other neighbors decided to evacuate when they realized how quickly the flames were spreading.
"We drove by it, watching it burn," Ronnie Newton said. "Nothing you could do. I mean, the whole place down the road was all in flames."
Officials confirmed at least one home was destroyed and at least five other structures in the area were damaged.
"They actually did save our house. Our garage and our shed were totally burned down, and we work on VWs and stuff and everything was lost," Stacy Newton said.
Channel 4 reporter Jim Piggott was allowed to get closer to the scene, where he was able to see the challenges that crews are faced with.
“That was the problem for firefighters because they couldn’t get back here to get to this home to try to save it. As you can see, there’s all types of materials and supplies. It was described as a junkyard," Piggott said. "One thing that did happen -- there’s animals back here, where you can see these hogs --they made it through all this. They’re alive.”
Residents who left their homes were allowed to return about 10 p.m. Tuesday. But many questions are being raised about why a controlled burn was allowed to happen during a time when conditions are ripe for wildfires.
"I think it took a moron to light a fire in wind like this. That's just how I feel. It's not right. You got wind blowing, you don't light a match and put on dry stuff like it is," Ronnie Newton said.
A fire official told News4Jax on Tuesday night that although they have a handle on the fire, they will be out there again Wednesday morning to make sure no hot sports re-ignite.