May 11 (UPI) — The West Mims fire, which has grown to more than 143,000 acres in Georgia and Florida, is expected to spread further due to “extreme fire conditions,” U.S. emergency officials said.
The National Wildfire Coordinating Group said the West Mims Fire, which was started by lightning on April 6 at Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and later spread to Florida’s John M. Bethea State Forest, grew to 143,893 acres and is 12 percent contained as of late Wednesday.
The NWCG, which includes the Georgia Forestry Commission, the Greater Okefenokee Association of Landowners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service, said hot and dry weather conditions caused the fire to spread. Those conditions are not expected to improve through Monday.
The fire on Wednesday spread west of St. George, Ga., which is under a mandatory evacuation.
“Due to extreme fire conditions today the fire made a push west of St. George, south of GA 94 and north of Road 8 between the two fingers of the fire. Firefighters are working hard to strengthen and construct additional firelines, including those along Road 8, to keep the fire from growing,” the NWCG said in a statement. “Tractor-plows are constructing line and the lines are being reinforced with water and fire retardant dropped by helicopters and air tankers.”
Nassau County Florida Emergency Management on Wednesday urged drivers to take extra caution while on roads due to limited visibility caused by smoke from the West Mims fire.
Authorities on Wednesday used a VLAT — a Very Large Air Tanker — to drop 24,000 gallons of fire retardant near St. George.