Georgia FIRES


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Catalina, California…Water-dumping planes and helicopters helped beat back soaring flames that threatened this quaint Catalina Island town Friday, giving firefighters a victory that allowed nearly 4,000 evacuated residents to start coming home.

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Even though the six-square-mile blaze was only 35 percent contained, the wildfire and thick smoke were confined to the tinder-dry brush in the mountains of this narrow island 30 miles off Los Angeles.

Avalon’s cobblestone streets, brightly painted bungalows, landmark casino and tourist hotels were mostly spared, with only one home and several outbuildings burned. No one was seriously injured.

“Thank goodness the firefighters did get here because that made the difference,” said Martha Ashleigh, 61, who has lived on Catalina on and off for years. “We were watching from our balcony and we could just see truck after truck go up there. They were just fabulous.”

A day earlier, flames bore down from the mountains, raining ash and chaos on the crescent harbor. Evacuated residents clambered onto ferries that passed U.S. Navy hovercrafts packed with fire trucks from the mainland.

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Many were workers who cook and clean for vacationers. Others were at vacation homes as the summer tourist season geared up.

“It’s like a war zone. The skies turned completely gray with orange streaks. The helicopters were flying all over the place,” said Anita Bussing, a therapist whose other home is in Long Beach. “People were freaking out, children were crying.”

By Friday afternoon, one ferry full of residents was headed back to the island from Long Beach, and a relay of water-carrying helicopters saturated a hillside at the edge of town where smoke curled into the blue sky. The step appeared intended to extinguish any lingering hot spots.

The cause of the fire, which erupted Thursday afternoon in the 76-square-mile island’s rugged interior, had not yet been determined.

The island’s relative isolation has proven a liability before. A 1915 fire that started in a hotel burned half the town’s buildings.

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The island’s romantic vibe was memorialized in the 1958 hit “26 Miles (Santa Catalina).” Before private jets and third homes became standard fare for the rich and really famous, Santa Catalina was a celebrity haunt for the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Cecil B. DeMille.

About 300 movies have been shot on the island or in nearby waters, including “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “Chinatown,” “Jaws” and “Apollo 13.”

One relic of that era are the herds of bison that were brought over for filming and later released.

Environmentalists said it was too early to tell how the blaze affected the island’s overall ecosystem, home to rare animal and plant life, including the Catalina Island fox.

But four bald eaglets that hatched earlier this year without human help were unharmed, according to Bob Rhein, a spokesman for the Catalina Island Conservancy, which owns most of the island. The birds are a milestone in the reintroduction of the species, which was wiped out on the island decades ago by chemical contamination.

Just days before and about 50 miles away on the mainland, crews fought a fire in Los Angeles’ major park that singed a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes. That was the third menacing fire in the Hollywood Hills this spring and wildfire season here isn’t supposed to heat up until the fall.

Around the country, firefighters battled a wildfire in Georgia and northern Florida that burned 179,940 acres or 281 square miles since a lightning strike ignited it a week ago.

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The fire, which started last Saturday in the middle of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, took just six days to grow larger than a wildfire that has burned 116,480 acres of Georgia forest and swampland over more than three weeks.

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In Georgia, the fire posed a potential threat to the tiny city of Fargo, where 380 people live about eight miles west of the Okefenokee Swamp. Occupants of about 15 homes in a subdivision were asked to leave as a precaution because of the smoke and ash.

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About 570 homes in northern Columbia County, Florida, were evacuated overnight, and heavy smoke blanketed the area. A haze was seen in Miami, more than 300 miles away. (See where other fires are burning in U.S.)

To the north, a wildfire grew to nearly 86 square miles in northeastern Minnesota and across the border into Canada, cutting power and phone lines to many resorts and lake homes.

The fire, driven by high wind Thursday and fed by drought-parched forest, has already destroyed 45 structures and was threatening about 200 more. The chance of desperately needed rainfall was still days away.
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Thank you Associated Press.

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As you know Baby Boomer…I live in central Florida [about an hour to 45 minutes away from the fires] and this morning…once again, the air is full of thick smoke and ash. It has been over a month since the fires started and people are warned to stay inside because the air is so dence.

We pray for rain but are not getting any…as well a storm could start more fires with lightning. It is a chance I would take, since the rest of the area is drought stricken.

Thanks and cudos to the Red Cross and the Firefighters!

~The Baby Boomer Queen

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In WAYCROSS, Georgia, wind gusts fanned flames into treetops Monday as crews continued to battle a wildfire that has burned 125 square miles of forest and swamp land in the past two weeks.

More than 830 firefighters from Georgia and neighboring states had the blaze 64 percent contained Monday morning, said Susan Reisch, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Forestry Commission.

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“We expect the fire will continue to burn intensely this week,” Reisch said. “Crews will be working on extinguishing hot spots through the month, or until the next heavy rain at the earliest.” No rain was forecast for the next several days, while low humidity and sustained winds of 10 mph threatened to help spread the fire Monday.

The blaze has blanketed cities including Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida — about 200 miles away — with its smoke.

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The fire has burned 80,000 acres in the Okefenokee Swamp and surrounding forest in southeast Georgia’s Ware County. The blaze started April 16 when a tree fell on a power line. It spread rapidly, destroying 22 homes.

A 16-mile section of U.S. 1, which connects Waycross with Jacksonville remained closed Monday as firefighters widened breaks to keep the fire from crossing the highway into miles of tinder-dry forest.

A few families remained evacuated Monday from their homes near the northern edge of the swamp.

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Firefighters also worked to contain two smaller wildfires that broke out Sunday in neighboring Charlton and Brantley counties. Weiss said at least nine families were evacuated from Charlton County.
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Thank you Associated Press.
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For over two weeks we in cental Florida, have seen and smelt the fires of Georgia. Yesterday was especially bad. The air was thick with smoke and every night the moon is covered with a hazy ring of smoke.

The northern winds are bringing the reality that the fires is just over the state line and our area is dry from lack of April showers.

I remember in 1985, I had to come from Fort Worth to check on my Mother who lived in the Ocala Forest. At that time, the forest was ablaze and all those who had property in that area, where threatened and many lost their homes. I can not even imagine how much wild life lost their lives, as the fire swept thru the area for weeks, ravaging acres and miles.

The really dangerous thing about a fire in a swampy area, is that the peat moss will ignite and the fire will go underground with it…which means…that a fire can pop up just about anywhere, once it gets started. A mile away or 500 feet…it doen’t matter…it smoulders and stays lit until it gets a good wind pulling at it and then it runs again.

When I got to the area, after driving for two days…I was met by Florida State Troupers who would not let in past their road block…well Baby Boomers…those of you who know me…KNOW that wouldn’t be something that would stop me. MY Mother was only 5 miles away and if she was in danger, I was going in!

I had been calling her for the last four days, but to no avail.

SO what do I do…you got it I turned around…turned around again and ran the road block…knocked those puppies out of the way with my new Lincoln. Needless to say…the Troopers came after me with lights and sirens blaring…I had to stop when the cruised in front of me as I wouldn’t endanger their lives…well they made me turn around and told me they could arrest me…go ahead I stated…No Judge in this area is going to put me behind bars for going into a fire zone to get their Mother out.

Well…I finally promised to give up if they didn’t arrest me {what could I do from a jail cell?}. What they did tell me were what other routes were not blocked…so off I went 35 miles in a big u turn to get in to the burning area. {glad that some of us were senseable that night!}

As it turns out…my Mother wasn’t even in her house. She was in Silver Springs, partying with her co~workers at a Fire Party. LOL

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So, that is my adventure of the fires that burned the Ocala National Forest. You can still see the scares from that fire, on the trees that survived it. Trunks of trees still black from the fire…but everything else has come back even better than it was.

Nature has a way of taking care of business that we, as humans don’t understand.

I will pray for rain for the Georgians and Florida and for their protection from harms way.

And my heart felt thanks, to those brave Fire Fighters who have diligently fought this fire…those from the area and those of you who have come in to help, from other areas. I know you are out there!

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~The Baby Boomer Queen~