Fire conditions continue to threaten FL Panhandle; some 3,600 acres are burning

Forests, timberland and homes are in danger as wildfires burn in the Panhandle. Credit: Florida Forest Service

Some 3,600 acres of forest have burned in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties in the Panhandle, and the risk of new blazes continues to rise, according to the Florida Forest Service.

High fire danger conditions were in place across northwest Florida. Credit: Florida Forest Service

Both of the fires in the two counties are 75 percent contained, meaning firefighters have used a variety of practices to halt the advance of the flames.

That means efforts must continue to reach 100 percent containment, forcing the fire to die out. Rain will help, but there’s none on the way.

“There is no rain in the forecast for the next seven days. As the drying trend continues and temperatures increase, ground fuels (vegetation) will continue to dry.

“Fires can start and spread very quickly in these conditions,” the Forest Service said.

Forest service investigators concluded that both wildfires in Escambia and Santa Rosa were started by human activity, and not from natural causes, the Forest Service said.

The largest of the fires burning in Florida Monday was on the Garcon Point peninsula between Escambia Bay to the west and Blackwater Bay to the east. The Five Mile Swamp Fire in south Santa Rosa County has burned 2,215 acres since last Monday. It straddled I-10 and forced closure of a nine-mile segment.

Wildfires of various sizes are burning around the state, fueled by dry, windy weather. The worst of the fires are in the Panhandle. Credit: Florida Forest Service

The Hurst Hammock Fire in south Escambia County has scorched 1,405 acres.

The Mussett Bayou Road fire in south Walton County was contained after burning 343 acres and destroying 34 homes.

Firefighters worked through the weekend to expand and reinforce fire breaks around the Five Mile Swamp and Hurst Hammock fires and to position “attack resources” to respond quickly to new flareups.

A Forest Service plane, a helicopter and a larger tanker plane were flying or on standby to survey those fire zones and respond as needed.

Statewide, 79 wildfires were burning on 7,825 acres around the state, and red-flag weather of dry, gusty wind is forecast for the coming week. This time of year is the typical wildfire season, but this one has been especially dry and windy, elevating the risk.

Fires in Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park near Orlando were burning on approximately 250 acres.