Just in: Massive Florida wildfire seen in stunning space images as threat continues

The Florida Forest Service is warning recent rains were not enough to stem the threat of wildfires as one in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge burns 130,000 acres.

The so-called West Mims Fire, which is on the Georgia-Florida line, was visible from space Sunday where the new GOES-16 satellite captured plumes of smoke rising into the atmosphere.

The West Mims Fire has forced the evacuation for all residents of St. George, Georgia.

According to a federal report on the fire, it was caused by lightning in early April. By Sunday, it had burned more than 130,000 acres. Over the weekend, the fire burned a tractor that became disabled on a stump, and was making an “aggressive” push to the south ahead of gusty northwest winds.

 

The Florida Forest Service says lightning caused 88 fires in the state this year, 83 percent higher than the  number caused during the same time period in 2016.

“Until the skies open up and just pour, and pour, and pour, we are vulnerable,” said Scott Peterich, a Florida Forest Service lightning mitigation expert for South Florida. “I know fire activity in the district has slowed, but it started again (Sunday.)”

A high pressure system is expected to keep South Florida dry through the week, with humidity levels beginning to creep up into the weekend. Rain chances increase to 30 percent on Saturday in West Palm Beach.

Areas of Miami-Dade county  and southwest Florida were under a red flag fire warning Sunday and today because of low humidity levels.

“If you go three or four days without rain and this kind of low humidity, the dryness comes right back,” Peterich said. “Remember, this dryness dates back to October or November.”

On Sunday, a fire in Martin County burned 28 acres along Interstate 95.

Other causes of this  year’s fires statewide include 78 campfires, 174 debris burns of non-yard trash material, 62 children-started fires and 330 were arson related.

West Mims Fire. Courtesy, The Southeast Region of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Fire Management Division

West Mims Fire. Courtesy, The Southeast Region of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Fire Management Division

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