Wildfire threat closes state park inside Okefenokee refuge

Community meeting held Friday evening in Charlton County

FOLKSTON, Ga. – A Georgia state park inside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is being closed to visitors as a wildfire burning in the swamp poses a growing threat.

Leland Bass of the Georgia Forestry Commission said Stephen C. Foster State Park was closed to new visitors Friday, while campers already in the park were being allowed to stay until Saturday morning.

The park's closure comes as a wildfire on public lands near the Georgia-Florida state line is expected to spread deeper into the refuge over the weekend. The fire has burned roughly 40 square miles since it was sparked by lightning April 6.

Bass said the fire posed no immediate threat to the park or visitors, but authorities decided to close it as a safety precaution.

PHOTOS: West Mims Fire

As of Friday, forestry officials said 385 people from all over the country were helping battle the West Mims Fire.

A community meeting was held Friday evening in Charlton County so people who live near the fire could find out how forestry officials plan to keep them safe. 

"As long as the weather stays and the forestry here has an outstanding plan to keep us safe ... I'm not concerned. I'm not in fear," said resident Woody Woods.

According to forestry officials, trigger points have been set up, and if the flames reach them, they will evacuate the residents. If shelters are need, they will be opened in Camden and Glynn counties. 

The Georgia Forestry Commission said it's in this for the long haul, pointing to a 2011 fire in the same area that started in May and wasn't extinguished until November.