Local rangers assist with South Ga. wildfires

Photo by Kara Apel

Photo by Kara Apel

COVINGTON -- The local unit of the Georgia Forestry Commission is lending a hand to help contain wildfires burning in South Georgia.

Ranger I Jody Price with GFC's Newton-Rockdale-DeKalb-Henry Unit recently returned from battling two of the three fires currently burning. Price spent 15 days in Ware County working the Racepond fire, which has burned more than 21,000 acres in Ware and Charlton counties, along with the Sweat Farm Again fire, which has burned almost 20,000 acres.

His duties included hosing down and installing sprinkler systems to salvage structures in Okefenokee Swamp Park and patrolling fire breaks. Containing the fires has proven to be challenging, in large part due to prevalent peat moss.

"Here if you dig down a couple of inches, there's silt," Price said. "Down there, there's such thick peat moss you really have to dig down deep to get any dirt or sand and all that peat continues to burn. We'd get an inch of rain one day and in three days it would be back burning again."

A third fire, known as the Honey Prairie fire, is also burning. All told, the three fires have consumed more than 300,000 acres, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate. Authorities believe the wildfires were caused by lightning strikes and machine use. Firefighters from 48 states are assisting.

Georgia Forestry personnel are asked to assist whenever there's a wildfire of such scope. Price is always ready to volunteer, along with his comrade, Ranger I Greg Waters, who left for South Georgia when Price returned.

"It's enjoyable. It's rewarding. You leave at the end of the day knowing you did some good for somebody," Price said. "I'm not going into a house fire saving somebody's life directly, but in a sense we're saving lives and livelihoods. A lot of what's burning is private land and company tracts of timber."