Wildfire Burns 300 Square Miles in Georgia and Florida

With a gigantic wildfire approaching, officials on Saturday closed a 35-mile stretch of Interstate 75 from the Georgia-Florida state line to Lake City, Florida, as well as a 40-mile stretch of Interstate 10 from US 90 to US 129.

In Georgia, authorities have also closed the southbound lanes of Interstate 75 from Valdosta to the state line and are warning drivers that the northbound lanes might be next because of extremely poor visibility.

Bill Hamilton of the joint fire information center said that smoke and fog are the dangers now, but the fire is not far from the highways. He said he expects the road closures, which started this morning, to be in effect for at least several hours.

Emergency management officials said that several accidents have occurred on the two highways and that area roads are at — quote — "near zero visibility."

Firefighters expect some help from a less windy day today but two giant wildfires in southeast Georgia and northern Florida have already burned a total of more than 330,000 acres.

Officials said that a wildfire that has raced through the Okefenokee Swamp in southeast Georgia and into northern Florida has charred more than 212,000 acres — or nearly 300 square miles — since a lightning strike ignited it a week ago.

The fire, which started last Saturday in the middle of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, took just six days to grow larger than a wildfire that has burned nearly 124,000 acres of Georgia forest and swampland over more than three weeks.

The fast-growing fire more than doubled in size Thursday as wind from the northeast fanned it across dry swamp grasses. Its movement slowed yesterday, but firefighters expect the blaze to keep growing, especially as the wind picks up again tomorrow.

The blaze has burned more than 111,000 acres in Georgia's Ware and Charlton counties and 101,000 acres in Florida's Baker and Columbia counties.

In Georgia, the fire posed a potential threat to the tiny city of Fargo, where 380 people live about eight miles west of the Okefenokee Swamp. Occupants of about 15 homes in a Fargo subdivision were evacuated.

About 570 homes in northern Columbia County, Florida, were evacuated overnight as the wildfire pushed farther into Florida.