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Strong wind complicated firefighters' efforts to contain a massive wildfire along the Georgia-Florida line Monday, and officials warned that more residents might have to evacuate.
The wind was gusting up to 25 mph Monday morning. Scattered showers and thunderstorms were forecast later in the day, but the help from the rain could be offset by lightning sparking new fires.
About 570 Florida residents were already out of their homes near the Georgia line on Monday, and schools in the area were closed as a precaution. County spokesman Harvey Campbell said more evacuations might be ordered as firefighters struggled against the wind-whipped flames.
"We're telling people to think of it like it's a hurricane ... in terms of getting prescriptions, paperwork, clothing and ready to move if conditions warrant," Campbell said.
The wildfire was started by lightning more than a week ago and raced through the Okefenokee Swamp in southeast Georgia and into northern Florida. By Monday, it had burned 102,500 acres in Florida and 139,813 acres of swampland in Georgia - nearly 380 square miles in all.
The fire was 30 percent contained in Florida and the smoke was beginning to lift enough for firefighting aircraft to take off after being grounded all weekend because of low visibility.
Smoke from hundreds of fires in the two states has plagued drivers. Affected interstates in Georgia and South Florida were expected to open only intermittently on Monday. The haze has traveled as far south as the Miami area.
Elsewhere, a blaze feeding on drought-stricken forest in northern Minnesota was only 20 percent contained Monday morning. The fire had burned a combined 93 square miles in Minnesota and Canada.
Off Southern California, fire crews began heading back to the mainland after snuffing out isolated hot spots in the backcountry of Santa Catalina Island. Officials said the fire, which burned 4,750 acres was 81 percent contained and posed no threat to the resort community of Avalon.
The fire burned one home and six businesses last week, but no one was seriously injured.
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