NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – As hundreds of people continue to fight the West Mims Fire in the Okefenokee Swamp Friday, people living in neighboring Nassau County are growing more concerned that the fire could spread to their area.
Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said they are concerned about the afternoon hours going into the evening when winds are expected to pick up. There’s not any visible smoke at the moment, but people who live around the area said that can change in an instant.
News4Jax spoke to people from Callahan, such as Ann and Jacqulyn Bosket, who are preparing for possible evacuation.
“(We’re) buying groceries and I'm hoping we don't have to leave,” Ann Bosket said. “We live down U.S. 1 quite a ways, so we're just hoping and praying that we won't have to leave.”
The Bosket said they have experienced wildfires before and know just how bad they can be.
“Six years ago or so, when we had that bad fire come through, it went across the highway and it was just an eighth of a mile up the road. So we stayed there and we watched it go across,” Ann Bosket said. “I don't want to leave if I don't have to.”
The Boskets said some nights the smoke is so bad that it creeps into the house and they have to keep the fans running to help circulate air.
Shortly before noon Friday, a News4Jax crew stopped to get some video to show how heavy the smoke was, and shortly after 1 p.m., the conditions improved tremendously. The smoke was nearly gone, demonstrating just how big an impact the winds can have on smoky conditions.
Leeper said that if the fire crosses County Road 121 near the Georgia-Florida state line, it would trigger the evacuation plan. He said at last check it didn’t appear to be moving that direction but said the Sheriff’s Office continues to monitor the conditions with Florida Forestry Service.
The Boskets said they’ll continue to pray for the best, and hope they don’t have to evacuate.
“I have cages for all my cats to put in, so they can be carried,” Ann Bosket said. “We're pretty much ready whenever. (We’re) on standby.”
Nassau County residents, especially those closer to the state line, need to be prepared for possible evacuation.