George under a mandatory evacuation

Firefighters called up a giant air tanker to attack a rapidly growing wildfire that threatened homes Tuesday on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp near the Georgia-Florida state line.

A mandatory evacuation was ordered and classes canceled as hundreds of firefighters battled a massive wildfire Monday near the southeastern Georgia town of St. George, officials said.

Evacuations continue in southeast Georgia where fire crews and foresters are grappling with the West Mims Fire as they work to contain its advance. Now Charlton County officials have made the evacuation mandatory, ordering residents of the St. George and Moniac communities to leave immediately. The county has opened an emergency shelter in Kingsland.

It is burning in and around the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and more than 133 thousand acres have burned since the fire began on April 6, 2017.

More than 600 firefighters from across the country are now working to control the wildfire, which has burned more than 137,000 acres in south Georgia.

The wildlife refuge said in a statement that "extremely unsafe burning conditions persist" and that 11,000 acres have been consumed by fire in just the past two days.

Charlton County schools were closed Monday because of the blaze and a shelter was opened at a recreation center a safe distance away. The fire is 12 percent contained.

The fire, first reported April 6, was caused by a lightning strike.

"It's a little unnerving", St. George resident Mason Pair told the AP.

"It's going to be ideal for extreme fire behavior and a high potential for fire growth", said Tom Stokesberry, a spokesman for the multi-agency team combatting the fire.

Monday afternoon, everyone living in the Moniac area was evacuated because of the fires.

All of Camden County's fire departments have sent personnel to help fight the wildfire in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

"We don't know how long this will go on", said Susan Heisey, supervisory ranger for the Okefenokee refuge and a fire spokeswoman.

A full compliment of resources has been assigned to maintain lines including 10 helicopters, 59 wildland fire engines, 37 tractor plows and five bulldozers.

And residents in Nassau County, Florida, have been warned that they too might need to leave their homes.

"It's absolutely not the best idea", Burnsed said.

Many counties in the area also have issued burn bans.

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