Today, Governor Ron DeSantis, FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie, Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried, and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis, toured damage from the wildfire and met with local officials to provide state support.
This morning, FDEM began mobilizing additional resources to have on standby to support response efforts. This includes requesting a drone assessment team, a mobile command vehicle and air operations support from the Florida National Guard. The Florida National Guard stands ready to assist, if necessary.
“We will continue to support Bay County residents while first responders work diligently to contain the fire,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Residents in Bay County should ensure their safety by continuing to follow all orders from local officials while the fire remains active.”
“I want to thank Governor DeSantis for once again demonstrating leadership and coming to Bay County as crews try to extinguish this fire,” said CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis. “There are a lot of folks that want to go home and these first responders are working around the clock to ensure they have a home to go back to. This fire is being fueled by the dead remnants of hurricane Michael, and because of the type of region we’re at, there are no fire hydrants in the area – so water has to be trucked in. That’s why so many fire departments from across the Panhandle have been responding.”
“We’re concerned about the wind and what it might do to this fire, so the State Fire Marshal’s Office will continue coordinating with the Governor’s Office, Forestry, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and other local fire departments until this threat has been neutralized. Until then it’s extremely important area residents pay attention and follow the directions of their local officials,” said Patronis.
Earlier today, the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s (FDEM) request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The FMAG will assist with offsetting costs associated with responding to the wildfire.
“With our request for the Fire Management Assistance Grant approved, the Division stands ready to mobilize additional resources to assist with the containment of the fires affecting Bay County,” said FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie. “The Division is committed to supporting local agencies and will ensure they have every resource they need to respond.”
Fire Management Assistance, under FEMA, is available to states, local and tribal governments, for the mitigation, management, and control of fires on publicly or privately owned forests or grasslands, which threaten such destruction as would constitute a major disaster.
“We received not only state funding, which we are very grateful for but also federal assistance. And so we basically utilized all of the resources that have already been distributed to the Department of Agriculture and our forestry,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said.
“And you’ll see what we’ve been able to do is really create the fire lines around so many of the buildings and so much of the area have cleaned out debris but of course, a lot of it is in the back of homeowners. And so working with homeowners has been difficult and getting some of that debris done as well,” said Fried.
FDEM recovery staff will process and secure this funding on behalf of local responding agencies, while they focus on containing the fire.
FDEM has damage assessment teams on standby, ready to deploy if needed. The FDEM meteorology unit also continues to provide regular updates in coordination with the National Weather Service to responding agencies.
Yesterday, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 22-54 to ensure that state and local governments have ample time, resources and flexibility to respond to the fire and enact life-saving measures.
Residents in Bay County are encouraged to use extreme caution and heed all orders from local officials. The National Weather Service in Tallahassee issued a Red Flag Warning that will remain in effect until 9 p.m. EST for Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Walton, Wakulla and Washington counties. A Red Flag Warning means that critical weather fire conditions are either occurring or will occur shortly.