JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mandatory evacuations in parts of Southeast Georgia are causing many to flee from the West Mims Fire, while others are choosing to battle it out and stay with their homes, like Lee Batten. His home of 40 years and his mother’s home next door are less than a mile away from the largest fire currently burning in the country at more than 143,000 acres.
“I have to give firefighters a lot of credit, you know, they’re out there on the front lines,” Batten said.
On the verge of losing everything his plea for help is not for himself.
“I wish people would support the firefighters, with needed goods, paper towels, wipes, sunscreen, bug spray, sodas of any type, they, they need all the help they can get,” Batten said. ‘’Just support them the best you can, they’re out there for us.”
As for Batten’s needs, he’s packed what he can in his van, preparing for the worst, since he knows when he returns home from work his house could be engulfed in flames.
Batten says each night when he goes to sleep, he says he never knows what he will wake up to. He gets only a couple hours of sleep a night because he’s constantly checking outside and listening for the sound of sirens as the fire grows larger and moves closer.
He says he’s hopeful, but his hope rides with the wind, which has been everchanging.
“One day you look and you see the smoke is going the other way, then you are covered in smoke, so you never know," he said.
Batten says he has co-workers who offered him a place to stay, but he doesn’t want to impede, so if he loses his home, he plans to stay in a hotel until he can figure out what to do next.
The good news is, he says firefighters are optimistic they can save his home as long as it doesn’t expand again. He’s choosing to be optimistic too.