FL Panhandle Wildfires Burn Homes; Hundreds Ordered to Evacuate

May 7, 2020

By: Staff Report

Evacuation orders for more than 1,100 Florida Panhandle homes are likely to remain in place Thursday as firefighters continue to battle the aggressive Five Mile Swamp Fire.

It was one of three large wildfires burning in northwest Florida. The other two are the 300-acre Hurst Hammock 2 Fire in Escambia County and the 575-acre Mussett Bayou Fire in Walton County.

The Five Mile Swamp Fire forced the closing of a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 10 through Santa Rosa County. The interstate remained closed Thursday morning, and the blaze had grown to more than 3 square miles and was 20% contained. At least 18 structures were destroyed or damaged by Wednesday night, Joe Zwierzchowski, spokesman for the Florida Forest Service, said in a news conference.

“This is a significant fire event,” Zwierzchowski said. “Deteriorating weather conditions, changes in the wind, strong north wind, and extremely low humidity are allowing this fire to grow.”

On Wednesday evening, Santa Rosa County spokeswoman Brandi Bates told the Pensacola News Journal that some┬áhomes had been damaged by the fire, but she didn’t know the extent of the damage or the number of homes. She said as of 6:30 p.m. 336 homes were in the fire’s direct path.

A shelter was opened at a community center, and county officials advised people not to let fears of coronavirus deter them from evacuating.

Crews are on the fourth day of battling the blaze, which began Monday after a controlled burn on the private property got out of control, the News-Journal reported. Zwierzchowski said the private contractor had a permit for the burn.

We will update this story as events occur.

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