U.S. park to reopen after massive peat forest fires

July 24, 2011

Authorities are reopening Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia five weeks after the 402,000-acre swamp was closed due to a massive forest fire sparked by a lightning strike during the state's severe drought.

More than 75 percent of Okefenokee burned since the April 28 lightning strike. Firefighters now have most of the fire under control, although sub-surface peat fires are expected to continue to burn for months.

The swamp — which includes cypress forest, marsh, lakes and islands — is a popular recreational destination. Okefenokee is home to some 400 species of animals.

Authorities say only limited activities will be allowed in the park due to fire damage to boardwalks, trails, and other facilities.

Georgia — and much of the U.S. South — is in the midst of a bad drought. Accordingly, forest fires were up more than 40 percent between July 1st 2010 and June 30th 2011 relative to the 5-year average.

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mongabay.com (July 24, 2011).

U.S. park to reopen after massive peat forest fires.