Twelve organizations are uniting their efforts to restore longleaf pine forests in Georgia. The forests are seen as critical for wildlife. They also benefit timber production. The effort is part of a multi-state coming together of public and private groups aimed at longleaf restoration.
Weeks of heavy rain that have drenched much of the Southeast have been a blessing at a wildlife refuge that straddles the Georgia-Florida state line. Officials at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge say it's enjoying a swamp water level about a foot higher than average and low fire anxiety.
Within the past three days, three rain gauges in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge had recorded rainfall totals between 3.75 inches and nearly 6 inches. On May 24, the swamp was at 118.68 feet above sea level at the refuge headquarters. Tuesday, it reached 119.14 feet with rain still falling.
US Forest Service officials say, they expect to have three more air tankers to tackle this year's wildfire season. And ten more are on the way for next year. The service could call on the military aircraft when large fires get out of control anywhere in the country, including South Georgia. A burn ban is going into effect Tuesday.
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge had dropped to near record lows because of prolonged drought, but National Weather Service maps showed that five or more inches of rain fell in some areas in and near the Okefenokee.
Georgia fire officials say, less than 100 fire personnel will be working the Okefenokee Swamp's Honey Praire Fire by this weekend. The officials say, they are "right-sizing" fire-fighting efforts based on ground conditions. At its worst, fire-figters and support staff numbered about 1,000.
Parts of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge are reopening to visitors this weekend after being closed for nearly six weeks by a vast wildfire that continues to burn in remote areas of the swamp. Spokeswoman Wendy Burnett says firefighters hope to declare the fires contained next week.
A vast wildfire burning in the Okefenokee Swamp since late April is just shy of 300,000 acres in size after soaking rains in southeast Georgia slowed the blaze's growth over the weekend. A spokesman for the federal and state firefighters battling the swamp blaze, said Monday that 2 ½ to 4 inches of rain fell across much of the fire Friday and Saturday. The Honey Prairie fire was estimated to be 299,909 acres Monday.