A wildfire that has been sending smoke off and on over the last month into Beaufort County has burned nearly 75 percent of the 430,000-acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge near the Georgia-Florida line, authorities say.
Fire officials tell the Florida Times-Union they're still watching areas already scorched because "reburns" can bring new threats, including one blaze three days ago near the visitor center at Suwannee Canal Recreation Area.
Crews are also assessing and marking hazardous trees along trails before they can reopen the refuge to visitors. With the peat burned out from around their roots, trees are falling and could pose a deadly hazard.
The trail that fared worst was the 4,000-foot boardwalk at the end of Swamp Island Drive, which was almost nearly destroyed.
Meanwhile, wildfires in Horry and Georgetown counties in South Carolina continue to burn.
The Hornet Fire in the Carolina Forest area has burned 805 acres and remains 75 percent contained, Scott Hawkins, commission spokesman, told The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News on Thursday.
In addition to battling four fires, state forestry commission officials also are struggling with equipment failures, Hawkins said.
Seven pieces of equipment used for fire suppression are not working because of "costly transmission/final drive problems," Hawkins said. "As it is, a significant portion of our fire suppression fleet in the Pee Dee region that is now down for the count."
A burning ban remains in effect for 14 Pee Dee counties, and a red flag fire alert is in effect for the entire state, Hawkins said.
The Town of Hilton Head Island has banned outdoor burning in town limits until further notice because of hot, dry conditions and the forestry commission's red flag alert.
"The extreme dry conditions make the island more susceptible to intense and fast spreading fires," said a town news release. "Even with the occasional rain, outdoor burning could become difficult to control. The public is strongly encouraged to honor this ban as violations of the ban may result in fines up to $1,092.50."
Town firefighters responded to seven brush fires within two hours on Sunday, four of which were believed to have been caused by fireworks. The fires were quickly contained and none caused structural damage.
For questions concerning outdoor open burning, call the town's Bureau of Fire Prevention at 843-682-5145.
The Associated Press and The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News contributed.