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Firefighters have contained 70 percent of wildfire

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Posted: April 30, 2007 9:06 a.m.
Updated: May 15, 2007 5:00 a.m.

    WAYCROSS - Firefighters have managed to contain about 70 percent of the largest wildfire in Georgia history, which has consumed 82,000 acres of Ware County forest and swampland in nearly two weeks, officials said Sunday night.

A few families remain evacuated across U.S. Highway 1 from the main blaze, where smaller spot fires ignited this weekend, said Georgia Forestry Commission spokeswoman Susan Reisch. While firefighters continue to patrol the affected 16-mile stretch of highway that remains closed, the wildfire hasn't spread across it to miles of tinder-dry forest.

Buzz Weiss, spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said officials are concerned that low humidity will create a dangerous situation on Monday. Schools in Ware County will open an hour later than usual and schools in Charlton County will be closed all day, Weiss said.

Still, strong winds gusting to 15 miles per hour and extreme drought conditions with no rain in the forecast mean the fire will continue to rage for at least another week, Reisch said.

Two more wildfires that broke out early Sunday morning in counties near the main fire _ one in Charlton County near the line with Ware County and one on the line of Brantley and Glynn counties _ were not connected with the wildfire near Waycross, Reisch said.

Firefighters were working to contain them as well and at least nine families were evacuated from Charlton County, Weiss said.

Meanwhile, a fire that broke out late Saturday in an Atkinson County peat bog about 30 miles west of Waycross grew to 3,500 acres, Weiss said.

With no rain in the forecast, firefighters are fighting "an uphill battle," Weiss said.

"Our biggest enemy continues to be the weather," Weiss said.

He said GEMA has been pleased that there are no reports of a significant upturn of people going to hospitals because of the smoke, apparently staying indoors and protecting themselves while outside.

The fire began on April 16.

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