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Thursday, May 19, 2011 - 11:14am

Controlled Burns Protect Park

Firefighters have the 146,000 acre Okefenokee Swamp fire more than half contained.

Progress came with a series of controlled burns.

The weather cooperated enough this week for crews to set what they call "strategic fires" to help keep the three-week-old blaze in the wildlife refuge and away from private land and homes.

Denise Croker of the fire's Joint Information Center says, the controlled burns got rid of potential fuel and increased protection to Stephen Foster State Park.

"It's a coordinated effort, a planned effort, actually because we got to make sure the winds are going the right way and everything else in order to have a successful strategic firing operation," Croker says. "It's still holding inside the swamp and until there's a substantial rain inside that perimeter it could smolder for a while.

The beefed-up fire breaks could be needed this weekend.

Conditions could dry out after Saturday's predicted rain.

Three-hundred thirty firefighters are now battling a blaze that's consumed the swamp's lower third.

Hot spots remain in the swamp's north-east, south-east and south-west corners.