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Wildfire Spreading in South Georgia, Arson Suspected

By: Gabrielle Sarann Email
By: Gabrielle Sarann Email

Bethany Primitive Baptist Church has been a Clinch County fixture for nearly 200 years.

But it could be reduced to ashes in just minutes if the wildfire battering Arabia Bay moves any closer.

"I hate to see it destroyed because there are so many memories here," said landowner Terry Tomlinson.

Tomlinson's family helped build this church back in 1822.

He and other area residents are hoping and praying that firefighters can keep the now 325 acre fire at bay.

"My family donated five acres of property here for this church site," said Tomlinson. "And that was well over 100 years ago."

Crews are working day and night and say they're making progress.

The Georgia Forestry Commissions suspects that the fire is an act of arson.

They say it was likely set around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and burned five acres by days end.

Now, 12 mile-per-hour winds are causing it to spread quickly.

Officials say what makes this bay fire so combustible is the debris that makes up Arabia Bay is so flammable and dry, it's causing the fire to spread almost 100 acres a day.

That's mostly leaves, hardwood trees, scrub brush and peat.

"Instead of us attacking the fire like we normally do, we're having to build a line construction outside the bay and wait for the fire to come to us," said Blair Joiner, the chief ranger for Clinch County, with the Georgia Forestry Commission.

That's why officials built a 12 mile fire break to try to keep the fire from spreading to nearby timber.

"We're going to continue to plow lines and plantations and continue to monitor and not just sit back and wait for it to come to us," said Joiner.

Officials say drought conditions have been causing the fire to spread.

They say a good rain would be the best way to stop it.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.


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