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Massive West Mims Fire prompts evacuations, creates poor air quality near Florida-Georgia border


A massive wildfire burning in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge near the Florida-Georgia border has prompted mandatory evacuations.

The unincorporated community of St. George, Georgia, was under a mandatory evacuation after the West Mims Fire jumped state Highway 94 and headed towards the area, according to Charlton County, Georgia, government officials.

Schools were closed throughout the county on Monday.

“[First] responders are NOT coming door to door because they are fighting this approaching fire to try to save your homes,” Charlton County officials said in a statement.

At least 79 people have been evacuated so far in the community, which has around 2,000 people, the Associated Press reported.

Okefenokee wildfire

(Photo/Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge)


The fire has burned over 130,000 acres and was originally caused by a lightning strike on April 6 at the wildlife refuge located in Folkston, Georgia.

Over 535 firefighting personnel have been assigned to fight the blaze, which is 12 percent contained. Firefighting efforts by helicopter were expected to resume by around 7 a.m. EDT Monday.

A tractor plow was overtaken by the fire around 4 p.m. EDT Sunday, but the tractor operator was not injured.

Smoke from the wildfires has been observed on satellite, and the skies around northern Florida and southern Georgia have turned a hazy orange.

A dense smoke advisory is also in effect down to northern Duval County, Florida, near Jacksonville International Airport, the AP reported.

Fire activity was expected to continue at an elevated level on Monday as wind speeds diminish and temperatures rise, according to InciWeb.

"The probability of ignition in dry fuels hit with hot embers will be close to 100 percent," InciWeb stated.


Smoke-covered sky in Jacksonville, Florida

A smoky haze covers the sky in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday, May 6. (Photo/Nancy Hutanu @nancyhutanu)