Photo: Members of the media covering a wildfire are surrounded by smoke Monday, May 14, 2007, near Lake City, Fla. (AP Photo/Sentinel, Red Huber)
Thursday, May 17, 2007
FOLKSTON, Ga. — Mark Ruggiero has 400 firefighters, 56 engines, 49 bulldozers and nine helicopters under his command. And that still won’t be enough to snuff out the wildfires that have shrouded the Okefenokee Swamp in smoke and flame for the past month.His only hope is a big rainstorm just shy of a hurricane. And it could be months before that happens.“The fire will burn in the swamp until we get a tropical depression that will drop nine to 10 inches of rain,” said Ruggiero, who has been directing firefighters headquartered at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. “That’s what it’s going to take.”The worst wildfires in Georgia since the 1950s have blackened more than 600 square miles of dried-out forest and swampland in drought-stricken southeastern Georgia and northern Florida. Commercial timber losses are estimated to be at least $30 million.