One fire in Long County intentionally was started and officials believe four others intentionally may have been set, according to Georgia Forestry Commission Long County Division Acting Chief Ranger Paul Robertson.
“We can definitely say that the peat moss Pearl Davis Road fire was set by somebody, and we believe that the four on County Line Road were also set,” Robertson said.
The acting chief ranger went before both the Ludowici City Council and the Long County Commission on Tuesday with this sobering news. A $10,000 reward has been offered to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the person who started the Pearl Davis Road fire.
Robertson said Long County typically sees an average of about 50 wood fires per year. This year, he said, there already have been 103. The authorities’ search for a possible arsonist in the county coupled with the already-dry conditions leads Robertson to believe there will be more fires.
As of Monday, the acting chief said, forestry units still were fighting the Pearl Davis Road fire and a fire near Fountain Branch Bridge and Griffin Ridge. Robertson said the two fires have consumed more than 1,000 acres in the county, but both now are 95 percent contained. So far this year, more than 5,000 acres in Long County have been destroyed by fire. Robertson said that since 76 percent of Long County is wooded, conditions for fire are ripe everywhere.
Firefighters managed to tame the Pearl Davis Road blaze into a controlled burn, but it has hit a peat moss bog and is producing billows of heavy smoke that are drifting over Long County and into Liberty, said Shirley Williamson, a Long County fire tower operator with Georgia Forestry.
She expects the fire to smolder for months because peat moss, which is heavily laden with natural fuels, burns hot, fast and continuously. Williamson stressed the fire is contained and firefighters are monitoring it carefully.
“There will be a lot of ‘mopping up’ with this fire where firefighters go around the perimeter of the fire to make sure it stays contained,” she said, adding that responders likely will have to monitor it on-site for weeks.
Officials do not expect to call for evacuations.
Robertson said the four fires believed to have been intentionally started on County Line Road occurred over the past four weeks. The Fountain Branch Bridge/Griffin Ridge fire still is under investigation.
Courier editor Hollie Moore Barnidge contributed to this report.