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Wildfire on Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2006

Contacts:
Shawn Gillette, Public Information Officer, (912) 832-4608


Firefighters continue to monitor a 117-acre, lightening caused wildfire on Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge in McIntosh County, Georgia. The fire is burning in a federally designated Wilderness area on the south end of the refuge, forcing the temporary closure of both the East and West Wilderness Trails and the south beach. All trails and beaches on the north end of the island and all navigable waterways around the island remain open.

The fire, which has been designated “Blackbeard's Revenge”, began as a lightning strike Thursday, July 6. The fire smoldered undetected until Saturday, when it was observed by the captain of a passing barge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel were dispatched to the island Sunday morning, and by Sunday evening, they had contained the fire.

What makes this particular wildfire unique is the fact that it is burning entirely in a federally designated Wilderness area. In 1975, Congress designated 3,000 acres of Blackbeard Island NWR as National Wilderness. The Wilderness Act of 1964 was established to protect some of the nation’s last remaining wild places for the use and enjoyment of all Americans. The Wilderness area affected by the wildfire on Blackbeard Island NWR contains thick stands of slash pines, with some live oak trees. Dried vegetation, such as Spanish moss, and Palmetto, can act as fuel for the wildfire. Yet, due to its Wilderness status, managers can not send in bull dozers to cut fire-line, isolate and suppress the fire, for to do so would irretrievably scar the landscape. Even the use of some fire retardants can have a serious impact on the salt marsh ecosystem.

“We have to work within the scope of the Wilderness Act when planning our management strategy for this fire,” said Terri Jenkins, Fire Management Officer for the Savannah Coastal Refuges and Incident Commander for the Blackbeard's Revenge Wildfire. “Keeping the fire within the confines of the Wilderness area is one of the priority objectives for this incident.”

Firefighters are getting assistance in their efforts to keep the fire confined to its present location by Mother Nature. The salt marsh on the west side of the fire will prevent the fire from moving in that direction, and the area to the southeast of the fire is dotted with dampened swells,which serve as a natural firebreaks. Firefighters will still monitor these areas.

The refuge is also employing the use of aerial water drops by helicopter on the fire, which has been effective in slowing the progress of the fire. The forecast for the rest of week calls for day-time temperatures to remain in the 90’s, with only a slight chance of rain, so crews will continue to monitor the fire and assess its potential.

“Fire is a normal part of the island’s ecology,” said Refuge Biologist Deb Bernard. “The fact that we are not sending in bulldozers and bombarding the area with fire retardants means that the burned areas will recover naturally. Fire rids the area of choking ground vegetation, dead woody debris and other hazardous fuels, and it will increase forage for many wildlife species. In the long run, this wildfire will be very beneficial to Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge.”

For more information on Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge and a fire update, please visit the website http://www.fws.gov/blackbeardisland/fire.htm


Photo credit (for first 3 photos) Terri Jenkins, USFWS, June 12, 2006
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, a combination of back burn and the salt marsh stalled the fire.
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, a combination of back burn and the salt marsh stalled the fire.
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Aerial view looking north.
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Aerial view looking north.
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Snags were a major safety issue for fire staff.
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Snags were a major safety issue for fire staff.
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Fire as seen from Blackbeard Creek.  Photo credit: John Tuttle, FWS
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Fire as seen from Blackbeard Creek. Photo credit: John Tuttle, FWS
Firefighter Luke Penney mops up hotspots on the southeast fireline. Photo credit: Shawn Shawn Gillette, FWS
Firefighter Luke Penney mops up hotspots on the southeast fireline. Photo credit: Shawn Shawn Gillette, FWS
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Ginger Corbin mops up hotspots within the burn area.  Photo credit: Greg Askins, FWS
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Ginger Corbin mops up hotspots within the burn area. Photo credit: Greg Askins, FWS
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Burning duff repeatedly reignites keeping firecrews busy all along the line. Photo credit: Greg Askins, FWS
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Burning duff repeatedly reignites keeping firecrews busy all along the line. Photo credit: Greg Askins, FWS
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Salt marsh stopped fire from running southwest.  Photo credit: Terri Jenkins, FWS
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, Salt marsh stopped fire from running southwest. Photo credit: Terri Jenkins, FWS

Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, southwest end of the island, along Blackbeard Creek.  Photo credit: John Tuttle, FWS
Blackbeards Revenge Wildfire, southwest end of the island, along Blackbeard Creek. Photo credit: John Tuttle, FWS

Blackberds Revenge Wildfire 2, as seen from Blackbeard Creek. Photo credit: John Tuttle, FWS
Blackberds Revenge Wildfire 2, as seen from Blackbeard Creek. Photo credit: John Tuttle, FWS

   

 


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