May 11, 2017: The West Mims fire in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in South Georgia. Photo shot by firefighters from the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. HANDOUT

Georgia wildfires means Okefenokee won’t be open for Memorial Day

If visiting one of Georgia’s natural attractions is usually on your Memorial Day things-to-do list, you will have to scratch off Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Memorial Day is generally pretty  busy for the refuge, but lately there’s been unwanted activity —massive wildfires that have burned more than 150,000 acres.

So, even parts of the refuge that have not been burned won’t be open. No tours. No seeking animals in their natural habitat. Especially no fire gawkers.

The refuge will remain closed until it has been deemed safe for visitors to reenter the area, said Susan Heisey, supervisory refuge ranger.


Photos: Wildfires in the South Georgia Okefenokee swamp area

Okefenokee fire could burn for months

She said there is still structure protection equipment throughout the area as well as firefighter traffic in the area. 

Officials said the wildfires were 60 percent contained. Rain has helped fight the fire.

Channel 2's Liz Artz reports.

“That’s hard to gauge,” said spokesman John Nichols on Saturday. “This coming week we’re expecting more rains in the form of thunderstorms. Rain is the good part. Thunder means lightning and more lightning strikes.”

Some strikes could result in new fires.

The Georgia Forestry Commission is managing the containment team, with help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

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