Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cost to Fight Fires at $1.1 Million County Officials Still Tallying Costs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cost to Fight Fires at $1.1 Million County Officials Still Tallying Costs

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski, Times-Union staff writer

DARIEN -- State forestry officials yesterday said it cost about $1.1 million to battle a series of South Georgia wildfires that destroyed about 10,000 acres of cultivated and natural timber in May.

The most expensive blaze occurred in McIntosh County.

Sparked by a lightning strike, the Blount Pasture fire smoldered for five days before erupting May 17. The fire destroyed about 3,800 acres between U.S. 17 and Georgia 99, from Darien north to Crescent, before being contained four days later.

At its worst, the fire -- fueled by shifting winds and tinderlike brush -- forced about 200 residents to evacuate their homes in five rural McIntosh communities. They were later able to return.

About 175 Georgia Forestry Commission rangers, as well as firefighters from 50 departments statewide, worked to put the fire out.

Forestry and county officials credit the crews with saving at least 100 homes with a combined value of almost $11 million.

But it was a costly fire nonetheless.

"The final cost of the Blount Pasture wildfire will be over $800,000," said Jennifer Brinson, a forestry commission spokeswoman. "The Federal Emergency Management Agency has stepped in and is reimbursing the state for the cost of fighting that wildfire."

Senior Forester Reggie Lanier said major expenses incurred included the destruction of an estimated $250,000 tractor plow owned by International Paper Co. and a forestry commission transport truck valued about $95,000.

"We're also talking about $300,000 in personnel costs and about $19,000 for food and lodging of the firefighters," Lanier said. The remaining costs included fuel, maintenance and helicopters for water drops, he said.

County officials are still calculating the costs. …

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