Florida Panhandle wildfires are a 'beast,' says official

Three wildfires that started last week in the Florida Panhandle have burned more than 29,000 acres and are threatening surrounding commu...

Three wildfires that started last week in the Florida Panhandle have burned more than 29,000 acres and are threatening surrounding communities with dry and windy weather, authorities said Tuesday.

The fires, which are collectively referred to as the Chipola Complex, are fueled by dead trees and other vegetation left behind by Hurricane Michael in 2018firefighters said.

“It’s a living, breathing beast,” Brad Monroe, Bay County Emergency Services Chief, said Tuesday at a press conference. “When it produces its own weather, you see lightning in a fire on a nice sunny day, it’s amazing. Words can’t describe it.

The largest fire in the Chipola complex, the Bertha Swamp Road Fire, spanned more than 28,000 acres and was 10% contained, according to a Tuesday evening. Florida Forest Service press release. The fire is centered about 60 miles west of Tallahassee.

“It’s a life-jacket,” Jimmy Patronis, the state fire marshal, said at the news conference, adding that residents shouldn’t take chances. No deaths or injuries were reported.

Gusty winds on Tuesday caused erratic fire behavior that prompted additional evacuation orders for parts of Calhoun County, officials said.

The other two fires at the Chipola complex — the Adkins Avenue and Star Avenue fires — have combined to burn just over a thousand acres and are each about 80% contained, officials said. Evacuation orders for these fires have been lifted.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said at the press conference on Tuesday that the state is working to provide $6.1 million to help families affected by the fires.

“This whole region has been through a lot in the last three years, starting with Hurricane Michael,” he said. “We have to make sure they are able to take care of themselves like they take care of others.”

Mr DeSantis also warned residents not to ignore evacuation orders, adding that so far two homes have been destroyed and others damaged.

“These fires move very quickly and it’s not something you can just wait and then all of a sudden bail out at the last minute,” he said. “Nobody wants to tell someone to leave their house.”

Fire officials said more than 70 tractor-plow units and 10 aircraft, including three Florida National Guard Black Hawk helicopters, were working to suppress the wildfires.

Parts of Northwest Florida will experience an active weather pattern over the next few days, with the possibility of tornadoes, the National Weather Service said. Severe storms were expected on Wednesday, and more storms with heavy rain could hit the region on Friday.

“While the weather forecast for the next few days predicts the possibility of rain, that won’t be enough to reduce the threat of wildfires anytime soon, especially in the impact area of ​​Hurricane Michael,” the Florida Forest Service said.

While wildfires have regularly ravaged parts of the American West, this threat could head east.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Florida Panhandle wildfires are a 'beast,' says official
Florida Panhandle wildfires are a 'beast,' says official
Newsrust - US Top News
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