Why is it still burning?
Long after an area has burned, dry residual foliage nearby can reignite flames and perpetuate fires, officials say.
Peat moss, and dry, dead leaves and pine needles from distressed trees create fuel for fires, whether they are natural or man-made, Georgia Division of Natural Resources fire management officer Shan Cammack said.
“All that stuff builds up more and more and more and when you have a long drought, you get different fire intensity,” she said. “A couple of weeks after a fire moves through an area, you can have what’s called re-burn because the trees have dropped their fuel.”
When this happens, the same areas can burn two and three times.
“When things are this dry and there’s that much fuel out there, all it takes is a careless cigarette toss out the window,” she said.
Prescribed burns, which rob a fire of its fuel, are the most effective way to prevent large, hard-to-control fires, she added.
— Danielle Hipps
Numerous residents of Happy Acres Mobile Home Park were asked to evacuate their homes as the Terrell Mill Pond fire flared up within yards of the MHP and nearby dwellings Monday evening.
According to Hinesville Fire Department spokesman Capt. Kris Johanson, the evacuation started around 8 p.m.
“We set up protection lines and were able to spray enough water to keep the fire from getting into the trailer park,” Johanson said. “It took about three hours before we let people back in.”
It was the second time in four days the fire had flared. Friday night it threatened Churchfield subdivision, in the same area, but off Highway 196 West.
“The firefighters told us it was about a football field away, but it seemed much closer,” resident Marguerite West said.
She and her neighbors were not asked to evacuate, but many watched as firefighters scrambled through yards, dragging hoses to get fire on the flames.
“We we worried, very worried,” West said.
Johanson said Georgia Forestry firefighters continue to work in the area and that things have calmed down.
But thick clouds of smoke continue to envelop the parts of the city, driven by prevailing winds. And, despite Tuesday’s rain, the fire continues to smolder.
“We knew it was going to flare up because it has been burning underground,” Johanson said.
The captain said Georgia Forestry is conducting back burns to clear of underbrush that can fuel the fire.
“The winds changed direction yesterday evening,” he said. “It caused it (the fire) to crown and move a little fast. We were able to set up a line and keep everything protected.”
David Duke, chief ranger of the Liberty County and Midway Georgia Forestry Commission, said their focus has been on containing the fire and keeping it from endangering structures.
“We’re throwing everything we got at it,” Duke said adding that things got a little exciting, especially Monday evening. “We knew in the beginning that only rain would put it out.”
Johanson said Tuesday’s rainfall was not enough to make a substantial difference in the fire.
“We would need several inches of rain over several days to really have a good affect on that fire,” Johanson said.
The Terrell Mill Pond Fire started about a month ago from a lightning strike the Georgia Forestry Commission reported.
According to a report they presented to the City of Hinesville during their Georgia Council meeting last week, the fire has consumed roughly 325 acres. It is estimated that the overall cost of the fire is in excess of $500,000 and was paid for by the Georgia Forestry Commission.
Duke said the Forestry Commission was also busy containing Sunday’s brush fire north of Midway and west of Seabrook Island on Leroy Baker Road. He said it burned 25 acres of marsh and swamp and is currently 50 percent contained.
The ranger said that fire is under investigation as they work on determining the cause.
Fires have consumed much of southeast Georgia within the past few months. In June roughly 9,000 acres burned in Long County. In Waycross sections of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge re-opened on Saturday after fires consumed more than 600,000 acres from April until July.
Duke said preparing for a dry season of brush fires is similar to preparing for hurricane season.
“Have a plan and be ready to go, just in case (brush fires) should pop out,” he said. “The fire situation changes day-by-day, because of the weather and winds changing.”
Reporters Denise Etheridge and Patty Leon contributed to this story.