Smoke, ash descend on Jax area

Shifting winds send smoke, ash from enormous Okefenokee wildfire

Viewer photo from Julington Creek
Viewer photo from Julington Creek

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Falling ash and smoke from an enormous wildfire raging in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was seen all over town Saturday. 

The 118,741-acre wildfire has been burning since a lightning strike on April 6 about 2.5 miles northeast of the Eddy Fire Tower in the Okefenokee refuge.

Residents from Nassau, Baker, Clay, Duval and St. Johns counties have all reported heavy smoke and falling ash. 

PHOTOS: Smoke from Okefenokee wildfire

Forecasters said the smoke could make outdoor air quality unhealthy.

“It was just a matter of time before the winds turned the smoke toward Jacksonville metro areas,” News4Jax meteorologist Mark Collins said. “Unfortunately, this is just the first episode of a fiery summer unless we get some long-lasting rain, which is not in the forecast anytime soon. Most of the upcoming work week will have west winds keeping the campfire smell around.”  

The strong winds out of the west have pushed the wildfire east into Charlton County, forcing emergency management officials to issue an evacuation order for the city of St. George, Georgia.

Fire officials said the wildfire will continue to burn very actively into the night due to high winds and will likely grow due to critically low humidity.

Firefighters said the wildfire could burn for up to six months unless heavy rains snuff out the flames sooner.