A Florida county is pushing more residents to evacuate as a fast-moving wildfire in Bay County Florida on the panhandle has already resulted in 600 homes being evacuated. The swiftly moving wildfire has already resulted in officials’ issuing a state of emergency.
The Adkins Avenue fire moving through Bay County has burned more than 1,400 acres (1.6 square miles) and is only 20% contained, resulting in evacuations, as of Friday evening, the Florida Forest Service tweeted. The area between the south of highway 231 and the east side of Transmitter Road is under mandatory evacuation.
The fire started when someone was burning trash in their backyard and the fire got out of control, according to Bay County Sheriff Tom Ford in a news conference.
The fire has already destroyed two homes and at least a dozen others have received damage, Emergency Services Chief Brad Monroe said. “There have been no reported injuries or fatalities,” he added.
The Florida Forest Service warned earlier in the day Friday that fire dangers are currently at a higher level in the state due to low humidity. Governor Ron DeSantis’ office responded to the blaze with an emergency ban on burning trash.
Bay County Commissioner Robert Carroll said there is now a burn ban for the county. “Please, no burning. We’ve got to get this fire under control,” he said.
Chief Monroe noted, “Debris left from Hurricane Michael in 2018 and other weakened trees has hampered firefighting efforts. We have some dangerous situations out there with trees that are hanging on. We want to be careful to not put our people in those situations where the wind may blow down one of the rotted trees that are standing. We have in many areas some very tall trees that are still standing that we’re worried about.”
The forest service has said an estimated 72 million tons of destroyed trees is potential fuel for fire. At least 200 firefighters are battling the blaze in Bay County and another one in Gulf County that grew to 1,600 acres on Friday.
Authorities have set up an emergency area for evacuees at the Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City.
Bay County has about 175,000 permanent residents in its 748 square miles. Panama City, a major tourist destination, is its largest city.
This is an ongoing event and you can check back for updates as they are made available.