Although smoke still lingers, the threat of the Florida Bugaboo Wildfire spreading into Hamilton County has been greatly reduced. On Wednesday, the leading edge of the fire was still located one-and-a-half to two miles east of US 441 in Columbia County and was 90% contained. All remaining evacuations were lifted on Sunday and all shelters have been returned to normal status.

The Florida Division of Forestry reported Saturday the current strategy of containment and control using natural and constructed barriers to the spread of the fire is succeeding, but it could be weeks or months before complete success is achieved.

Last week fire crews dug into a four-foot deep peat bog and found an active fire burning. There are many areas like this within the fire interior. Surface fires and ground fires will continue to burn in the south Georgia and north Florida areas until a fire season ending weather events occur, such as several tropical storms.

As may as 800 firefighters from all over the United States have been working to reinforce the lines, mop up the interior of the fire and protect structures. They have widened the fire lines by dropping fire retardant (or “slurry) from air tankers that can spread retardant over an area 50 foot wide by 500 foot long.

Approximately one-quarter inch of rain fell on the burn area Thursday night and Friday morning, which helped the firefighters. The potential for the fire to spread outside its perimeter has been reduced. Pockets of heat near any available fuel may still respond to wind and low relative humidity, become active, and throw embers into the wind stream. However, the probability is low that some embers may cross control lines.

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson said the fact that some areas of the state are getting limited rain should not lull anyone into a false sense of security. While the rain is good, there has not been enough to put out any wildfires and the storms often bring lightning, which can start new fires. The rain that has occurred does not make a dent in the drought conditions and there continues to be a high probability of wildfires.

The statewide ban on burning yard trash is still in effect. People should be very careful with any outdoor cooking and should not throw cigarettes or other lit material out of a vehicle. People also need to use extreme caution when using outdoor equipment and when stopping vehicles over dry grass.

Those who wish to visit the National Forest in Florida should check closure information on the USDA Forest Service website, www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida. Currently the Osceola National Forest north of I-10 and the Florida National Scenic Trail from Olustee to White Springs, are closed because of the Florida Bugaboo Wildfire. The U.S. Forest Service has banned open fires in the Apalachicola, Osceola and Ocala National Forests. This includes building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, or stove fires, except for commercially designed devices, such as propane cook stoves and above-the-ground pedestal grills.

The Department of Environmental Protection canceled the Florida Folk Festival scheduled for Memorial Day weekend at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park and closed the park until further notice. For more information about the closure, visit www.FloridaStateParks.org.

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