National refuge fire could burn 6 months

On April 6th a bolt of lightning struck and started a blaze  inside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, near the Florida-Georgia state line. That, in addition to the strong winds over this past weekend have spread the fires further into the park, to the swamps that have been dried out by droughts . This spread has increased the fire’s footprint by 76% from Friday through today, making the total size of the fire now at 70 square miles. In total, the fire has not burned a significant portion of the Okefenokee Refuge, as its square milage comes to 635 miles, but the flames have been going for 3 weeks straight.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the refuge and has decided to let the fire burn its course within the boundries of the refuge. In the meantime, firefighters are using bulldozers to enforce fire perimeters along the refuges’ borders to prevent any spread onto private land. Despite these preperations, there is no immenent threat to humans or private property at this time.

The firefighters who are currently managing the blaze are prepared for a long haul, and expect this to go for several months. Commanders have estimated that the fire will fail to extinguish completley, or be totally contained until around November. So far, there has been no real threat to the population, and officials don’t expect there to be any real harm. The only people at risk reside in Fargo, a tiny town boasting 320 residents on the refuge’s western edge. They, along with the residents of a rural stretch of Charlton County along the eastern edge of the refuge, have been warned to prepare in the case that evacuations become necessary.

Wildfire in the Panhandle of Texas

Wildfires in the panhandle of Texas reached 750 square miles as of 2pm on March 16. This has caused at a minimum of $21 million in agricultural damages. According to economist Steve Amosson “damages last week included $6.1 million in lost pastureland; $6.1 million in lost or damaged fencing; $3.8 million in lost buildings; $4 million in livestock deaths; and $1 million for emergency hay and feed.” Among the victims of this fire include many livestock animals: 2,500 cows and 1,900 pigs. This is particularly unfortunate because cattle ranching is a large part of the economy in some parts of Texas. 
A state of emergency was declared in six Texas counties. One rancher in the area described how quickly it came; about two minutes after they spotted it approaching their ranch, it was there. According to an article, the fire was moving about 70mph. The same rancher heard that a young man was killed in a nearby community by the wildfire or its effects.  Texas is very dry and warm, making for great conditions for a wildfire. Looking at the pictures, it seems that this was a surface fire, because many of the trees in the photos are still standing, just scarred, while no grass in any of the photos remains. 

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Wildfires burn more than 1 million acres, taking 7 lives

Story highlights

  • By Tuesday, more than 1 million acres had burned
  • Residents evacuated in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado

(CNN) Wildfires across the country had consumed more than 1 million acres by Tuesday night, taking at least 7 lives.

The Oklahoma Forestry Service told CNN the fires burned 400,000 acres, and prompted Gov. Mary Fallin to declare a state of emergency for 22 counties.
Officials in four other states said that 400,000 acres were destroyed in Kansas, 325,000 in the Texas Panhandle and 30,000 in Colorado — not to mention the 6,000 acres burning in the Florida swamps near Naples that resulted in mandatory evacuations.

5 fire-related deaths in Texas

Three ranchers trying to save their cattle died in a wildfire in Gray County, Texas, according to Sandi Martin, coordinator with Gray County Emergency Management.
The three were among five people killed by wildfires in the Texas Panhandle as fires continue to scorch swaths of the Southwest and Great Plains.
The Gray County blaze scorched 100,000 acres, but has since been contained, Martin said. State fire marshals are working to determine the cause.
The three victims were identified as 20-year-old Cody Crockett, 22-year-old Sydney Wallace and Sloan Everett, according to Richard Peet, a county judge and the Gray County director of emergency management. Wallace died from smoke inhalation, while Everett and Crockett were badly burned, he told CNN.
Crockett and Wallace were “an amazing young couple,” according to family friend Lee Tammy Callenback.
Callenback posted a tribute on her business’ Facebook page.
“Cody brought his new found love Sydney to meet us and we immediately knew they were perfect for each other,” Callenback said. “She was an amazing young woman with a bright future as a nurse, but was always trying to keep up with the cowboy way of life.”
The Hoover Volunteer Fire Department said in a Facebook post that all of its units had returned home safely.
One person died in a fire in Lipscomb County, according to Sheriff Kenneth Eggleston — and another fire-related death was reported in Ochiltree County.
Wildfires have forced evacuations in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

Firefighters injured

As many as five firefighters were injured while fighting another fire near Amarillo, Texas. Several blazes merged into one massive fire reportedly 12 to 15 miles across, according to Potter County Sheriff’s Office Capt. John Coffee.
The Texas A&M Forest Service is monitoring two major fires that remain active in the Texas Panhandle.
The largest of the two is the Perryton fire, which is more than 300,000 acres wide and only 5% contained. The fire, which is located in Ochiltree and Lipscomb counties, has destroyed two homes.
The other, the Dumas Complex fire, covers 25,000 acres and was 90% contained Tuesday evening.
The Texas A&M Forest Service and the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center forecast that winds, which help stoke the wildfires, will subside on Wednesday.
Elevated fire conditions will return to the area on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, according to the Forest Service.
Gov. Greg Abbott activated state resources to combat the wildfires, according to a statement from his office.

One dead in Kansas

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said a man died from smoke inhalation in Clark County after getting out of a semitrailer truck he was driving.
“We’re not out of the woods, by any means,” Brownback said at a news conference where he urged residents to stay home if they didn’t have to travel.
“Yesterday was just a particularly incredible day for the state. We saw fire, floods, fail, tornadoes, straight line winds and dust,” he said.
The Kansas fires have accelerated rapidly throughout the day. According to Catherine Horner, spokeswoman with the state Division of Emergency Management, the fires in Clark County have consumed more than 350,000 acres — or nearly 60% of the county.
The fires have destroyed 30 homes and compromised bridges, Horner said, but it’s now at least 50% contained.
Horner told CNN that the fire in Reno County has forced 10 to 12 thousand people to evacuate. Crews went to homes and structures in the area looking for victims. The Kansas National Guard has lent four Black Hawk helicopters to the firefighting effort for water drops.
She also said the fire spread today to Comanche County, where 500 people had to be evacuated.

One fire-related death in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, a 63-year-old woman died of a heart attack while fighting wildfires alongside her husband in Harper County, according to Dale Spradlin, Director of the state’s Department of Emergency Management.
He told CNN that 125,000 acres were burning in his county alone. The fires destroyed one “inhabited structure,” some barns and “a big hog production complex.”
“It’s 15 to 16% humidity,” Spradlin said. “It’s just like a powder keg out here. A good static charge will start a fire right now.”
An update from the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said that eight fire-related breathing complications had been reported to hospitals in the area.
More than 185,000 acres had burned in a fire in Beaver County, and fire departments in Payne County responded to five separate fires throughout the day, according to the update.
Fire conditions were not expected to improve through Tuesday night, according to a press release from Gov. Mary Fallin’s office.

Chile Experiences Disastrous Wildfires

Chile has been placed under a state of emergency due to the outbreak of 58 wildfires which has destroyed more than 1,000 homes and killed 11 people. Many foreign countries, as well as several individuals and groups have reached out in order to try to help the victims of the fires. Many countries have also sent money and supplies to aid the fighting of the fires, and have sent trained firefighters. In addition, the Chilean government has recently arranged for four new helicopters to help fight the fires.

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