Fires force evacuation of hundreds of homes in Florida Panhandle

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Residents of hundreds of homes in the Florida Panhandle have been evacuated as a wildfire destroyed two homes and damaged 12 others, in an area that has spent the past three years recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Michael .

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Residents of hundreds of Florida Panhandle homes have been evacuated as a wildfire destroyed two homes and damaged 12 others in an area that has spent years recovering from hurricane devastation Michael, officials said Saturday.

“It’s no surprise,” DeSantis said.

More than 200 firefighters and rescue workers from across the Panhandle worked overnight to reinforce containment lines and protect homes. As of Saturday morning, the 1,500-acre (607-hectare) Adkins Avenue fire was 30% contained, according to the Florida Forest Service.

The agency deployed more than a dozen tractor plows as well as several helicopters, and burning bans were in effect in parts of the region, officials said in a news release.

At least 600 homes had been evacuated by Saturday morning, but that figure is expected to rise as more neighborhoods are placed under evacuation orders throughout the day.

DeSantis praised firefighters for saving dozens of homes overnight.

“This is a really big, fast fire,” DeSantis said.

It also left behind 2.8 million acres (about 1.1 million hectares) of shredded and uprooted trees in the Florida Panhandle, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said during of the press conference.

“Hurricane Michael left an additional threat to our communities – wildfires,” Fried said. “Wildfires are never easy to control. This extra fuel and the dense pockets of vegetation from Hurricane Michael will increase the intensity of wildfires.”

Florida Forest Service officials said there was no timeline for when residents would be allowed to return home. At the press conference, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis recommended evacuated homeowners contact their insurance company because it would speed up the claims process if their home was damaged or destroyed.

“Be patient as we ask that you evacuate your homes,” Patronis said.

Dry conditions in Florida have created high fire risks, with 148 active wildfires statewide, including the 3,000-acre (1,214-hectare) Bertha Swamp Fire in neighboring Gulf County, according to the Florida Forest Service.


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