Over 1,000 homes evacuated as wildfires rage in Florida Panhandle

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Residents of at least 1,100 homes were evacuated over the weekend after multiple wildfires raged in the Florida Panhandle, state forest officials said.

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Update 10 a.m. EST March 7:

The Adkins Avenue fire in the Florida Panhandle forced veterans in a nursing home to evacuate Sunday alongside residents of more than 1,000 homes in an area, according to The Associated Press.

At a news conference on Sunday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that the Bertha Swamp Road Fire had grown to approximately 9000 acres.

Original Story:

According to a news release from the Florida Forest Service, the Adkins Avenue fire in Bay County has burned more than 1,400 acres. At a news conference Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that thousands of acres of fallen trees from Hurricane Michael, coupled with low humidity and strong winds, combined for a “perfect storm.”

“This is not a surprise,” DeSantis told reporters. “This is a really significant, fast-moving fire.”

More than 200 firefighters from the Panhandle were working to contain the fire, WJHG-TV reported. The forest service said the fire is now 30% contained.

The blaze destroyed two homes and damaged 12 others, The Associated Press reported.

“I am very glad that (my home) made it through, (but) I am worried because there are still fires that are around,” resident Sonja Schmitz told the Panama City News-Herald. “We’re trying to get everything we can valuable out (of our house), and we’re just going to keep on watching.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to the Florida Forest Service. A burn ban remains in effect for all of Bay County, WJHG reported.

The fire, believed to have been started by a homeowner burning trash, was between U.S. 231 and Adkins Avenue, the News-Herald reported.

“Hurricane Michael left an additional threat to our communities -- wildfires,” Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried said at the news conference. “Wildfires are never easy (to) control. This added fuel and dense pockets of vegetation from Hurricane Michael will increase the intensity of wildfires.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.