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Monday, May 9, 2011 - 11:27am

Okefenokee Fire Reaches Florida

A fire burning through the Okefenokee Swamp has now scorched nearly 90,990 acres, making the air smell smoky nearly 200 miles to the north.

People in the Augusta area have called emergency management officials about the smoky smell.

Columbia County Emergency Management Director Pam Tucker said her office has received several calls about the smoke smell in Richmond and Columbia counties.

Tucker attributed the smell to the fire and said winds appeared to be blowing the smoke toward Augusta Tuesday.

The Florida Times-Union reports the blaze has now crossed into Florida in an area where the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge extends into Florida, according to a fire map released Tuesday afternoon.

Officials said residents of 50 homes in a nearby community may be asked to evacuate.

The last major fire in the swamp was in 2007, when more than 500,000 acres burned in the Okefenokee refuge and surrounding communities.

Refuge spokesman Art Webster says, the big problem will be when winds and dry conditions push the fire outside.

"Last week, the winds were pushing the fire towards our western boundary," Webster says. "Today, we're experiencing some expansion to the east and to the north. It's just day by day."

The fire is located deep inside roadless wilderness.

"There's only been one opportunity for the fire fighters to even get close to this fire," Webster says. "So, there's been a lot of preparation work going on along the margins."

The refuge's western entrance is closed and tours on the eastern side also are cancelled.

About 170 fire-fighters are battling the blaze.

They've created huge fire breaks along the refuge boundaries.