HomeOutdoorsForest Service Says Two Florida Panhandle Wildfires Are 95% Contained

Forest Service Says Two Florida Panhandle Wildfires Are 95% Contained

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Seung-il Ryu/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In an update on Saturday, Florida’s Forest Service announced that two of the wildfires that have been raging through the Florida Panhandle since early this month are 95% contained. Overall, the multiple fires have burned over 34,000 acres.

This weekend, firefighters were able to contain a 1,000-acre area around Adkins Avenue and Star Avenue near Panama City. However, the Chipola Complex fire, which covers 33,131 acres is still only 60% contained.

“Barring any substantial changes,” Saturday’s update will be the last from the forest service.

According to CNN, officials claimed that recent rainstorms helped firefighters get the flames under control.

And as the Forest Service shared on Thursday, the main reason the wildfire spread so quickly was that the original fire ignited in the same area that Hurricane Michael ravaged in 2018. The storm left an “exponential volume of dead trees and vegetation” in its wake that acted as kindling for the flames.

Florida Pandhandle Wildfires Forced Hundreds of Panama City Residents to Evacuate

When the Panhandle Wildfire broke out this month, it forced over 600 Panama City residents to evacuate their homes.

Officials in Bay County ordered the evacuation for people living south of Highway 231, on the east side of Transmitter Road. And officers from all across the Panhandle went into the burn zone to help people get to a shelter inside a local baptist church.

According to the Florida Emergency Services, the wildfire was three-quarters of a mile wide and covered 700 acres by 4 p.m. E.T. on March 4th.

By 5 p.m. that same day, the fire had spread to 800 acres and had damaged 600 homes. Only two were destroyed.

“It’s quite a big fire,” operations administrator for the Florida Forest Service Michael Klassen told the Panama City News-Herald. “We’re actively working it. We have lots of aerial resources on it.”

Bay County public information officer Valier Sale told the outlet that the flames began on Friday, March 4th, when a homeowner’s burning trash spread out of control. When firefighters first learned of it, it covered 25 only acres.

Because the area is full of dry kindling, officials knew that the wildfire to spread further. So they immediately sent six tractor-plows and two helicopters to the scene.

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for the entire county by Friday night. To help, he also activated the Florida National Guard. And he issued an emergency ban on burning trash.