Rain Quiets Massive Okefenokee Fire

More Than 500 Square Miles Of Swamp, Timber Land Have Burned

FOLKSTON, Ga. - The Honey Prairie Fire Complex, which has burned 443 miles of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge since it started with a lightning strike two months ago, was estimated to be 60 percent contained Tuesday, thanks to rainfall over the past few days.

?Now is not the time for complacency. This fire is not out," said incident Cmdr. Mike Quesinberry. ?We?re taking every advantage of every opportunity the weather gives us to gain the upper hand. Right now, I'm feeling a bit more optimistic than I was a few days ago, but we know how quickly things can change in the swamp."

Fire crews from over 47 states are assisting with the Georgia Forestry Commission and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge fire suppression effort. A total of 1,385 personnel, 172 engines, 115 dozers and 10 helicopters are involved in the firefighting efforts.

The Racepond Fire, 33 square miles burning in Charlton County just northeast of the refuge, was estimated to be 67 percent contained. The Sweat Farm Again Fire, which has burned 30 acres west of Waycross, was 69 percent contained.

On Monday, an Army bomb squad from Fort Stewart was called to destroy 339 sticks of old dynamite discovered by firefighters outside a building at Okefenokee Swamp Park.

Park manager Martin Bell said the dynamite was left over from construction of the park in the 1940s, when it was used for blasting cypress trees and trail construction.

Bell said that although locals had always talked about a dynamite stockpile somewhere nearby, ?you never knew if it was a swamper story or not."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday declared 22 drought-stricken counties in Georgia disaster areas, qualifying them for emergency loans and other benefits. Farmers in Brantley, Camden, Chatham, Coffee and Ware counties were eligible to apply for assistance.

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