Containing South Georgia wildfire could take months

It may be mid-June before a wildfire covering about 21,700 acres in southeast Georgia is contained, officials said Tuesday evening.

June 15 is the estimated containment date for the West Mims Fire that is burning in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, the agency that is coordinating efforts to battle the blaze.

About 330 people are involved, and equipment includes helicopters, fire engines and bulldozers, officials said. The fire, which started April 6 after a lightning strike, is about 3 percent contained.

On Tuesday, a plane with fire retardant accidentally dropped its load on the east side of Lake City, Fla., according to a Facebook post by the wildlife refuge.

“While in flight back to the tanker base,” officials said, “one of the gates had a malfunction, allowing retardant to drop over an approximately 5 mile stretch of ground, including an area along the east side of Lake City close to the airport, south of Hwy. 90.”

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The retardant can cause nasal and respiratory-tract irritation if it is inhaled, and people exposed should move to a clean air source, officials said.

The plane is at the Lake City airport and will have a full maintenance check before becoming operational to be sure the gates are working properly, according to the post.

RELATED: Crews battle 20,000-acre wildfire in South Georgia

Residents along Ga. 177 in Fargo, Ga., were advised to prepare a precautionary bag of items that would be needed in an evacuation, Clinch County Emergency Management Agency director Will Joyce told the Valdosta Daily Times. An ambulance has been stationed in the area as a precaution.

Smoke covered most of Clinch County on Monday and could be found over Lowndes County, the Times reported.

No injuries have been reported from the fire or from the plane’s accidental drop of retardant.

In other news:

The doctor is charged with three counts of murder for their deaths. (

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