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Wildfire Florida Panhandle: Bertha Swamp fire, Adkins Avenue fire force evacuations in Bay County near Panama City

PANAMA CITY, Florida – Firefighters and emergency workers battled two massive wildfires Sunday in a Florida Panhandle area still recovering from Hurricane Michael 5 more than three years ago.

The 8,000-acre (approximately 3,237-acre) fire on Bertha Swamp Road and the 1,400-acre (567-acre) fire on Adkins Avenue threatened homes and forced the evacuation of at least 750 homes in Florida Bay at the weekend. A fire on Adkins Avenue destroyed two structures and damaged 12 other homes late Friday. A local emergency official said no homes were destroyed and no injuries were reported Saturday, the second day of a firefight on Adkins Avenue.

“No damage to homes. No injuries to residents or respondents. Great victory for Bay County!” Bay county emergency officials tweeted early Sunday.

Local authorities said they did not know when residents would be able to return home.

“It’s not safe to go home right now. Please be patient as the first responders battle with these dangerous fires,” Bay officials said online.

The county opened a shelter at Bay County Fairgrounds for displaced residents.

“We understand and recognize that everyone is looking forward to returning home and that it was a huge inconvenience,” said Valerie Sale, a spokeswoman for Bay County.

The fire on Adkins Avenue has been burning in County Bay since Friday, forcing the evacuation of at least 600 homes and was reduced by 35% on Sunday morning. The much larger Bertha Swamp fire started in neighboring Gulf County on Friday, but spread to Bay and Calhoun counties on Saturday, forcing the evacuation of another 150 homes. It was reduced by 10% from Sunday morning.

Firefighters said Florida Forest Service helicopters had dropped more than 103,000 gallons (about 468,000 gallons) of water into the Adkins Avenue fire since Friday, and 25 bulldozers had been deployed to plow fire lines.

“Unfortunately what is happening today is almost a copy of yesterday’s weather,” said Joe Zwierzchowski, a spokesman for the Florida Forest Service, Sunday morning. “We test strong, steady winds at speeds of 10 to 15 (16 to 24 kilometers) miles per hour, with gusts of up to 20 to 25 miles (32 to 40 kilometers) per hour. So this will make the situation a lot more dynamic. “

There are currently 148 wildfires throughout the state of Florida, according to the Florida Forest Service.

Hurricane Michael in 2018 was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $ 25 billion in damage to the United States, leaving behind 72 million tons of damaged trees that provided fuel for Bay County fires, according to the Florida Forest Service.

PHOTOS: Hurricane Michael leaves the disaster in its path

There are currently nearly 150 wildfires burning more than 12,100 acres (approximately 4,900 acres) throughout Florida.

ABC7 Chicago contributed to this post.

Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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