FOLKSTON — Thunderstorms packing lightning and little rain this week helped spark 47 new wildfires in southern Georgia, where a vast blaze already is burning in the Okefenokee Swamp.
Georgia Forestry Commission spokeswoman Wendy Burnett said Thursday that all of the new fires started in the past three days and had been contained by firefighters, most after burning just a few acres. The largest burned about 200 acres — or less than one-third of a square mile — in Appling County.
“Containment lines are around all of them,” Burnett said. “The main problems we’re facing now are the smoke and the smoldering.”
Meanwhile, about 500 firefighters near the Georgia-Florida line continued to make progress keeping a massive 160,234-acre fire confined to the interior of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. That fire, which has burned more than 250 square miles inside the swamp, was started by a lightning strike April 30. Fire officials say it’s now 80 percent contained.
Another blaze, named the Racepond Fire, that started near the Okefenokee’s northern edge was 70 percent contained Thursday after burning 7,883 acres, or 12 square miles.
Drought conditions largely are to blame for one of Georgia’s most active wildfire seasons in years. Fire officials say the swamp fires need several days of soaking rains before they can be extinguished.