Archive for August 16, 2009

Two Years After 300,000 Acre Fire in Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge, Dead Trees are Still Falling

FOLKSTON, Ga. – Two years after the largest wildfires in state history struck Southeast Georgia, trees are still falling in the Okefenokee swamp.

Towering above a lush green layer of new shrubs, bushes and grasses that sprouted after the fire are scattered stands of dead trees throughout the 396,000-acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The Bugaboo Fire and Turnaround Fire combined to burn more than 300,000 acres inside the swamp.

The trees aren’t an issue in most of the swamp because they are falling in remote areas seldom visited by tourists or rangers. But they are creating problems along hiking and canoe trails, where they are still toppling on windy days and blocking access to areas of the swamp, said Jim Burkhart, a refuge ranger.

“Every time the wind blows 20 mph, we have to send people to remove trees blocking the trails,” he said. “We’ve still got trails that aren’t totally open yet.”

It’s likely refuge officials will have to deal with the issue until all the dead trees have fallen, he said.

“There’s a pile of trees out there,” Burkhart said. “Some, we have no idea when they’ll fall.”

Driving around the area two years later, everything is green, with black skeletons of burned trees sticking up into the sky. I haven’t been boating through the swamp since before the fire; I thought it would be pretty depressing. Sounds like it is time to go!

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