By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer
May 9,2017, 7:06:40PM,EDT
Mandatory evacuations continue for the massive wildfire burning in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge near the Florida-Georgia border.Mandatory evacuations expanded on Tuesday to encompass the entire southern half of Charlton County, Georgia. This includes the communities of St. George and Moniac. Residents in Western Nassau County, Florida, have also been told to prepare for evacuations if the fire continues to spread.
Some schools in the area have reopened after being closed on Monday.
Students in the St. George area will not attend classes for the rest of the week, according to Charlton County Schools.
Firefighters and Charlton County emergency services personnel plan to facilitate structure protection for areas near the fire.
According to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, a Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT), which is a DC-10 aircraft equipped with a retardant delivery system, was headed to the West Mims Fire on Tuesday to help battle the blaze.
At least 79 people have been evacuated in the community, which has around 2,000 people, the Associated Press reported.
The fire has burned over 140,000 acres and was originally caused by a lightning strike on April 6 at the wildlife refuge located in Folkston, Georgia.
Over 690 firefighting personnel have been assigned to fight the blaze, which is 12 percent contained.
A tractor plow was overtaken by the fire around 4 p.m. EDT Sunday, but the tractor operator was not injured.
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Smoke from the wildfires has been observed on satellite, and the skies around northern Florida and southern Georgia have turned a hazy orange.
A dense smoke advisory is also in effect down to northern Duval County, Florida, near Jacksonville International Airport, the AP reported.
Significant beneficial rainfall is not expected in the fire-ravaged area throughout this week. As precipitation from a large-scale storm system from the Southwest pushes east into southern Georgia and northern Florida throughout Friday night into Saturday, it will encounter dry air.
“There will still be some showers and thunderstorms, but not nearly enough rainfall to break the drought,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Maggie Samuhel.
With persistent dry weather anticipated, dry fuel will remain abundant.
"The probability of ignition in dry fuels hit with hot embers will be close to 100 percent," InciWeb stated.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam revealed that since the start of 2017, arsonists have ignited approximately 320 Florida wildfires which have torched more than 20,000 acres.
According to InciWeb, the West Mims Fire is estimated to be contained by Nov. 1.
Smoke from the West Mins Fire is heavy in many parts of Nassau. Use caution. Call 911 if you see flames!
West Mims smoke column from Bryceville on us 301 looking north @NassauEM