Growing Florida brush fire closes Georgia state park

 
23 April 2017

published by http://www.11alive.com


USA -  FOLKSTON, Ga. -- Stephen C. Foster State Park is south Georgia is closed because of a growing Florida brush fire that has already spread to more than 26,000 acres.

A park spokesman told 11Alive it will be closed "until further notice."

The closure comes in response to the West Mims Fire which is currently estimated at 26,417 acres and only 4 percent contained. Over 400 personnel are working to bring the massive fire under control. That includes seven helicopters, 33 wildland fire engines and 47 tractor plows.

The fire was sparked on April 6 near the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge which sits on the border of Florida and Georgia.

It's one of two major fires being handled in the state.

Officials said Saturday morning that a fire in south Florida spread from 4,800 acres to 5,500 acres overnight in Collier County, which borders the Gulf of Mexico just south of Fort Myers. The blaze destroyed nine homes as well as some cars in the past day and is only 10 percent contained, officials claim.

Local government first ordered mandatory evacuations on Thursday as the then-400-acre fire threatened a large residential part of Naples. By the next day it had grown to more than 10 times the size. Officials confirmed that residents in 7,000 homes have been ordered to evacuate, although some people have chosen not to leave.

More than 100 Florida Forest Service crews are on the ground battling the blaze along with more than 300 contractors, plus law enforcement. On Friday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott deployed National Guard resources to assist, along with a stern warning to residents.

Scott lauded President Trump's administration, which he said was "very responsive" to the fire. The federal government will help reimburse Florida for the costs associated with fighting the fire. Scott clarified he hasn't talked to the president about the matter. The state couldn't provide an estimate as to how much the firefighting effort will cost.

On Friday, the National Guard was deploying Blackhawk helicopters to help tame the 100-foot flames. About 100 deputies went through neighborhoods and door to door to try to evacuate residents.

Officials on Saturday didn't offer a reason for how the fire started, saying the cause of the blaze is under investigation.