The U.S. Forestry Service will conduct a disaster-awareness presentation at 1:30 p.m. and 2:20 p.m. today in the Long County High School cafeteria.
The program will include a PowerPoint presentation, safety procedures and recommendations in case of another fire or emergency situation. The public is invited.
The fire that broke out in Long County on Thursday afternoon ravaged 4,035 acres and burned 10 structures, three of which were occupied homes, said Darrell Ballance, Ludowici/Long County Fire Department Chief and Emergency Management Agency Director. The cause of the blaze still is unknown, but the Georgia Forestry Commission will conduct a full investigation.
Since the fire is all but extinguished and no dwellings are in danger, the command center at the Long County Recreation Department from which firefighters and first responders had been operating has been closed. However, the Georgia Forestry Commission’s “hot shot” team still is putting out hot spots and any areas they see smoldering, Ballance said. Firefighters also created 40- to 50-foot firebreaks to contain possible flare-ups.
Firefighters found assistance over the weekend in the form of rain showers that doused the scorched land and lingering flames.
“The rain has been a big help in extinguishing the fire,” Ballance said.
Outages caused by burned power lines were reported throughout the area, he said, but service has been restored, and all evacuees have been allowed to return to their homes. The only reported injury was to a firefighter who broke his foot. Thirty fire departments responded to the fire and, at times, up to 270 firefighters were on hand.
The fire chief said winds made the blaze especially difficult to control.
“It was a tough fire to fight due to the high winds, which, at times, caused the fire to reach treetops and jump highways,” he said.
The fire began Thursday afternoon in a wooded area near Elim Church Road and quickly spread to the thickly forested land off Highway 84, which public-safety officials temporarily closed a few times due to zero visibility. The fire jumped Highway 84 on Thursday evening and ignited land on the other side of the road.
Two helicopters were brought in Friday to drop water on the flames, according to L/LCFD Assistant Chief Richard Truman.
Ballance said the fire was the worst he’d seen since 2007 when 2,000 acres in Long County burned. He also emphasized the importance of taking safety precautions in times of crisis.
The chief reminded residents to leave the area or stay indoors when a fire breaks out or burns into the evening hours because smoke and darkness make it hard for fire-engine drivers to see bystanders lining the sides of the roads and lingering on the outskirts of the fire. He also encourages residents to think twice before lighting controlled burns.
“Before you do any burning, even a little pile, call Georgia forestry at 1-877-652-2876,” Ballance said.
Courier correspondent Lewis Levine contributed to this report.