An estimated 100 firefighters from throughout the area continued to battle a forest fire Saturday in Long County that engulfed about 1,600 acres.
The blaze was reported at about 4 p.m. Thursday and is believed to have started in the area of Highway 261, according to authorities.
Sixty homes had been threatened as of Friday night, but firefighters had managed to save all of them by using manpower, an airplane, two helicopters and nearly 20 bulldozers.
Ludowici/Long County Fire Department responded to the call, and was assisted by firefighters from McIntosh County, Glennville, Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, Harris Neck, Hinesville, Gum Branch and Fort Stewart.
On Friday, the fire was about 75 percent contained, and on Saturday fire crews were continuing to secure the lines with firebreaks.
Winds, estimated at 15 mph, had changed direction, pushing the flames toward areas that had already burned.
“Hopefully, by Monday, we will have this just about wrapped up, depending on the weather. We hope by tomorrow (Saturday) we will have the fire under control so we can start securing the lines,” Georgia Forestry Forester Reggie Lanier said.
Anatomy of a forest fire
According to Ludowici/Long County Fire Chief Darrell Ballance, his department along with units from Harris Neck, Glennville, Gum Branch, and McIntosh County battled the blaze with Georgia Forestry until 11 p.m. Thursday. At that point, about 270 acres had burned.
Although the fire threatened two homes during the night, firefighters were able to protect both structures.
After Georgia Forestry assumed control of the fire, a dozen bulldozers were used to establish firebreaks, a helicopter dropped water on the blaze and an airplane was used to provide aerial information to the ground crews.
By Saturday afternoon, Georgia Forestry District Ranger Vernon Owen reported about 800 acres had burned.
He said 68 personnel were on hand, along with an incident management team, and the bulldozer count was up to 19.
Owen was also expecting the arrival of two more division supervisors, eight men and six more bulldozers.
As of 2 p.m. Friday, the fire was estimated at 50 percent contained. By 8 p.m., Lanier had assumed incident command of the Georgia Forestry units, and was working in a unified command with Ballance.
Ballance said several units had been relieved and left the operation for the night. Those that continued working the blaze included the Ludowici/Long Fire Department, Gum Branch, Fort Stewart, Hinesville and the Georgia Forestry units.
Ballance also reported homes along Wilds Road and Duncan Road had been evacuated as a precaution.
Lanier estimated the number of personnel on scene at that point was 130. He said the number of bulldozers had grown to 30, and an additional helicopter that been brought in to suppress the fire.
He also reported 60 homes had been threatened by fire, but units had managed to save all of them.
Lanier said the Red Cross and the United Pentecostal Church had been supplying food for all of the units, and the Pigot Branch Missionary Baptist Church had provided a staging/command post on Highway 301.