PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Gov. Ron DeSantis returned to Bay County by helicopter after touring the massive wildfires impacting Bay County.
During a news conference, DeSantis and others described the fires, which sent first responders scrambling to evacuate a nursing home, as dangerous and fast-moving.
“The Bertha Swamp Fire is approximately 9000 acres and is about 10% contained. And so as you go out and look at that, you know that’s a big boy and it’s raging very quickly. It’s moving,” DeSantis said. “If you look where it’s moving, the smoke is like way ahead of it. So make it creates a lot of challenges and a number of different respects.”
Florida’s CFO, state fire marshal, and insurance regulator, Jimmy Patronis, once again urged evacuees to go ahead and start the insurance claims process.
“If nothing happens, then nothing goes wrong, nothing to hold against you. It’s just getting your paperwork file just in case,” Patronis said. “We’ve seen about three homes that potentially are total losses so far, but that number is small because of the amazing work of our first responders.”
Sheriff Tommy Ford also thanked first responders and state leaders who have rushed to help Bay County.
“And I promise you if you go ahead and put them in a mission for us any other disaster in the state Bay County will be the first to respond to help,” Ford said. “The situation has been dynamic over the past couple of days and changing very quickly.”
Ford added that despite frequent rumors and concern the Bay County Jail was not being evacuated. However, he said a robust plan is in place to get all 9,000 inmates to safety if the wildfire threatens them.
Brad Monroe, the chief of emergency services for Bay County, said the Bertha Swamp Road fire was about 9,000 acres and continues to threaten the area.
“It’s just hard to believe that something could be that big. That is the biggest fire we have ever seen,” Monroe said. “It’s just, it’s just incredible. It’s … hard to comprehend just how big, strong and fierce this fire is.”
He added that firefighters expect to face similar conditions tomorrow all but ensuring that the current evacuations will remain in place.
“I’m sorry for any inconvenience, but this is necessary to protect lives,” Monroe said.
You can watch the full news conference below: