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Dry weather, plenty of fires
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Dry conditions are keeping Bryan firefighters busy on both ends of the county.

"We need some serious rain," said Capt. Charles Blair, who works with the Bryan County Fire Department’s South Division. "A lot of these woods haven’t been burned off in years. There are layers which makes it that much worse. You think you’ve got it out and it’ll burn two or three days or weeks under the ground and decide to pop up."

And pop up, they have. Thursday night, firefighters responded to a fire in Fancy Court they thought they’d put out earlier in the week. It was the third time firefighters responded to that fire, which burned about a quarter of an acre before it was contained, BCFD Assistant Chief Otis Willis said.

"Due to these real dry conditions, it’s very difficult to totally extinguish them," he said.

Firefighters have responded to 19 brush fires on the south end in April alone. So far they’ve been small, Willis said, because people have "given us a heads up so we can respond quickly."

One of the most stubborn fires was on Tivoli Island, which gave firefighters headaches because of the surrounding marsh. Firefighters made 10 trips there "at a minimum," Willis said, with crews going onto the island with hand tools at times.

"Each time we were notified we responded with a full crew," he said. "Because of the very dangerous conditions for the crews, we just couldn’t get to it."

The fire on Tivoli seems to be out now, but firefighters are in a standby mode on both ends of Bryan County. There have been 15 fires in north Bryan which have burned approximately 150 acres, according to the Georgia Forestry Commission.

Wednesday, smoke from a fire that burned 2,250 acres in an artillery impact range on Fort Stewart near Beulah Church Road blanketed parts of the north end of the county, including Pembroke.

That fire is "95 percent extinguished," Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said Wednesday, the same day a fire near Jerusalem Church Road burned roughly 20 acres. Authorities suspect arson in that case, because firefighters found a burned pickup. Georgia Forestry rangers contained that fire. Another fire Thursday involved GFC and north Bryan, Bulloch Bay and Stilson firefighters. The blaze near Seed Tick Road on the county line between Bulloch and Bryan counties started Wednesday and rekindled Thursday, burning approximately 15 acres before it was contained.

Arson also is suspected in that fire, authorities said.

Capt. Rebekah Baker from BCFD’s North Division said north Bryan firefighters have responded to 23 fires in April, a number that includes trips to help battle brush fires in Long County and Waycross.

"It’s the dry weather," Baker said. "There’s no humidity, no wetness in the air. It’s just taking off."

But so far, Bryan County hasn’t been hit as hard by fires as Ware County, where more than 60,000 acres have burned in recent weeks. But Thursday, Bryan County EMA Director Jim Anderson was among the local firefighters who made the trip back to Waycross to offer help. Fort Stewart sent a crew to help Wednesday, as well.

So far, Willis and Blair, along with firefighters Josh Hammack, Buddy Barrow, Jacob Boswell, Shannon Willis, Ed Wills and Gary Epperson have helped fight the Ware County fire. Firefighters Mike Tountasakis and Joe Forlenza were on their way when they were "canceled in route," Willis said.

"When we left out of there (Ware County) last Sunday morning we thought they had it controlled," he said. "My understanding is it’s serious again. We put our crews on standby, because they only want invited departments."

Blair went to Ware County on April 19 and helped protect homes, buildlngs and fight a fire that spread into a junkyard and burned dozens of antique cars.

"It’s burning houses, junk, cars," he said. "Any kind of fuel source it can get to, it’s burning it."

Firefighters say rain would help, but there’s little relief in sight. Friday’s weather forecast on calls for a slim chance of rain next week and a 50 percent chance on May 6. In the meantime, GFC isn’t giving out burn permits and officials are urging residents to be careful.

"Conditions are at their extreme," Willis said. "What we strongly suggest is no outside fires."

There are other suggestions, too, such as not throwing lit cigarettes out of vehicles.

"Even throwing a glass bottle out and it breaking," Blair said. "If the sun hits it right it’s going to magnify the sun’s rays. That’ll cause a fire. That’s how dry it is."



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