LAKE CITY, Florida – Firefighters managed to keep a sprawling wildfire along the Georgia-Florida line in check Monday, though officials warned that more residents might have to evacuate.
Winds gusted up to 25 mph, and officials said any help from scattered showers and thunderstorms that were forecast could be offset by lightning sparking new fires.
About 570 Florida residents already were out of their homes between Interstate 10 and the Georgia line Monday, and some schools were closed as a precaution. Columbia County spokesman Harvey Campbell said more evacuations might be ordered.
"We're telling people to think of it like it's a hurricane ... in terms of getting prescriptions, paperwork, clothing and ready to move if conditions warrant," Campbell said.
In Georgia, 15 to 20 homes north of Fargo remained evacuated Monday, and more residents in the town of a few hundred were told to be ready to leave and to place sprinklers atop their homes, officials said.
The wildfire was started by lightning more than a week ago and raced through the Okefenokee Swamp in southeast Georgia and into northern Florida. By Monday, it had burned 102,500 acres in Florida and 139,813 acres of swampland in Georgia — nearly 380 square miles in all.
The fire was 30 percent contained in Florida and the smoke was beginning to lift enough for firefighting aircraft to take off after being grounded all weekend because of low visibility.
"Everything is going good so far. The fires are still within our containment lines," Jim Caldwell, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, said Monday. "Our control measures are working thus far."
Smoke from hundreds of fires in the two states has plagued drivers. Portions of Interstates 10 and 75 were reopened Monday afternoon, though authorities warned conditions could change. The haze has traveled as far south as the Miami area, about 340 miles away.
Elsewhere, a blaze feeding on drought-stricken forest in northern Minnesota was only 20 percent contained Monday. The fire has burned a combined 117 square miles in Minnesota and Canada.
The fire has destroyed 133 buildings, including 61 homes, in an area dotted with rustic cabins and resorts, causing an estimated $3.7 million in damage, officials said.
Off Southern California, fire crews began heading back to the mainland after snuffing out isolated hot spots in the backcountry of Santa Catalina Island. Officials said the fire, which burned 4,750 acres, was 81 percent contained and posed no threat to the resort community of Avalon.
The fire burned one home and six businesses last week, but no one was seriously injured.