Evacuation, donation information for Okefenokee National Wildlif - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Evacuation, donation information for Okefenokee National Wildlife fire

(Source: Facebook) (Source: Facebook)
WAYNE CO., GA (WTOC) -

The raging wildfire at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is forcing over 2,000 people to evacuate in Southern Georgia. 

The West Mims fire has aggressively pushed into residential areas due to worsening conditions this past weekend. Mandatory evacuations are now in effect for the St. George, Canaday Loop and Moniac areas.

The West Mims Fire has grown by about 4,000 acres in the past 24 hours.

Concern continues to grow especially when the fire pushed across Highway 94 at Boggy Break coming out of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge this weekend.

The fire is over 133,000 acres right now and its 12 percent contained. Over 635 crews and officials are here from all over the United States, including District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

I am told the fire is completely surrounded by firefighting resources including helicopters, bulldozers, tractor plows and hot shot crews. But at the moment, those working the West Mims Fire are fighting extreme fire behavior. The conditions are not helpful, it's dry and the wind can cause the fire to shift. 

"We have really low relative humidity, we are experiencing drought conditions, although the winds are better than the last few days we are still expecting gusts up to 20mph,” said West Mims Fire Public Information Officer Shawn Bawden.

A shelter is set up in Kingsland at the PSA Recreation Center at 1050 Wildcat Dr. 

I spoke to so many people in St. George who are extremely grateful for the efforts of everyone here on federal, state and local levels. I was able to speak to one man who told me they have been moving peoples belongings from one house to other houses farther away. He told me firefighters are sitting in his backyard right now, it's hard for him and so many others.

"There is a lot of stress there, worried about people's homes and livelihoods and all that," said Zach Davis, St. George Resident. "Hopefully they can get it out, I appreciate what everyone is doing all the people, got people from all across the country helping. Hopefully it won't catch anyone's home."
 

The fire, caused by lightning, has been burning since April 6. 

Latest Evacuation Information

  • According to the Incident Information System, the St. George evacuation area has now been updated to include Canaday Loop and Moniac residents. A shelter is open at the Camden County Recreation Center - 1050 Wildcat Drive, in Kingsland. You can reach them at 912.729.5600 
  • Hwy 121 is closed from Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge south to the intersection of Hwy 94 
  • Hwy 94 is closed from Hwy 121 to Hwy 185
  • Hwy 177 is closed 11 miles north of the intersection with GA 94 at the entrance to the Stephen C. Foster State Park
  • Roads may be temporarily closed, as needed, due to smoke or equipment movement 

*Drivers may encounter firefighters, firefighting equipment, log trucks, and smoke along roads around the refuge. Please avoid driving on roads near fire activity unless necessary - even if the roads are open.* 

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has received lots of donation offers, including food, water, and money. They posted to Facebook to make a few suggestions for those who are interested in helping. They are as follows: 

1. "We always encourage folks to support their LOCAL firefighters...the heroes who are there to protect you all the time... your LOCAL fire departments. Whether volunteer or not, most local fire departments can always use supplies and funds.
2. Likewise, support your local food banks. Evacuees may need help.
3. The Okefenokee Wildlife League is the 
friends group that supports Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Whatever funding you give them will help the refuge.
4. Or, if you really want to support wildland firefighters, we encourage you to donate to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. They provide support for families of fallen firefighters.
The #WestMimsFire is well-supplied with water, food, etc, and we have no means or authority to accept money. But, we are so appreciative of all your offers for support. Give us a big smile, and we'll feel adequately thanked!!#Okefenokee."

For more information, visit the Okefenokee's Facebook page here. Click here to see the U.S. Wildfire Activity Web Map.

For more information on donations:

  • Water, Gatorade, supplies, etc. (Drop off locations for VFDs)
    • Any fire station in Charlton County
    • Any Ace Hardware in Callahan, FL or Hilliard, FL
    • Charlton County Station 1 in Folkston (8am-8pm)
    • Church of God in St George
    • Call Brian Rauls @904-504-3631  or Miss Wilson @912-222-5031
  • Funds:
    • Local fire departments, food banks, churches, and schools.
    • OWL (Okefenokee Wildife League)- the refuge’s friend’s group
    • Wildland Firefighter Foundation (supports families of fallen firefighters

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