April 25, 2007
A wildfire continues to burn near Waycross.
Today the blaze spread rapidly through the Okefenokee Swamp, crossed a highway and began moving toward communities south of Waycross. Dozens of neighbors had to leave their homes for a few hours, and authorities closed a highway.
State fire marshal and insurance commissioner John Oxendine says the devastation will affect the tax base of the county.
"We're talking tens of tens of millions of dollars have been lost in timber," he said. "But that figure, every time an acre burns that figure changes, so you just have to have a rolling count."
Officials say the fire has destroyed 18 homes in the area. Many of those affected are renters with no insurance.
Columbia County has sent personnel and resources to assist in battling the blaze.
Tonight, two Columbia County firefighters, Capt. Mike Holberton and Capt. Brent Willis, traveled to Waycross with a 3000 gallon water tanker to provide protection for neighborhoods. The firefighters plan to be there for up to two weeks. If help is needed longer, Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue will send relief firefighters.
Columbia County's chief forestry ranger, Steve Abbott, was in Waycross providing incident command from April 9 through April 24. Upon his return to Columbia County, two other forestry rangers, Billy Brantley and Brett Jensen left for Waycross to continue his work.