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10:00 PM UPDATE:

ADKINS AVENUE & BERTHA SWAMP ROAD FIRES

BERTHA SWAMP ROAD FIRE

The Bertha Swamp Road Fire is still estimated to be at around 9,000 acres but containment has increased to 20%. This fire is still by far the largest of the three blazes being battled.

Fire officials said a big reason for this is because the blaze is hard to get to, due to all the downed trees from Hurricane Michael.

But that’s not the only issue they’ve faced.

“The biggest struggle with these fires is going to manpower, trying to get ahead of them so that we don’t have to go back in and protect more structures on the backside,” Captain Isaac Smith with Bay County Fire Rescue said. “Basically getting ahead of it to try to get it under control as much as possible.”

ADKINS AVENUE FIRE

The Adkins Avenue Fire is still measured at 841 acres and is now 40% contained. Early acreage estimates were hampered by smokey conditions and intense fire activity.

“Unfortunately, the fuel on the ground is like balsa wood. The new growth that we’ve had since Hurricane Michael, it burns very hot,” Florida CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said.

All evacuation orders for the Adkins Avenue Fire and the Bertha Swamp road fire remain in place. There is no timeline for when residents will be allowed to return home. Motorists and residents are encouraged to remain clear of the area and to follow updates from the Bay County Emergency Services on Facebook. Residents can register for emergency notifications at AlertBay.org.

CALLAWAY HEIGHTS FIRE

The first wildfire of the week started in Callaway on Wednesday afternoon— and it’s still not over yet.

Officials with the Florida Forest Service said the Dogwood Way Fire has grown to 27 acres, but crews are working on putting it out. BDS announces Tommy Smith, Waller and Merritt Brown to close Monday

On Sunday evening, the fire was reportedly 90 percent contained.

The fire, unfortunately, destroyed one home and several cars on Wednesday.

Luckily, no one was injured.


8:00 PM UPDATE:

Star Avenue Fire

Clifford Chester Sims Veterans Nursing home residents were taken by Bay County Trolley and vehicles driven by the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, to the Bay County Fair Grounds.

Family members who want to check on their loved ones are to call (850) 401-2356.

Residents will be able to stay until it is safe for them to return to their facility off of Tram Road.


7:30 PM UPDATE:

Star Avenue Fire

The Florida Forest Service responded to a new wildfire that erupted today in Bay County on Star Avenue, as first responders were also working the #adkinsavenuefire and #BerthaSwampRoadFire.

The #staravenuefire is estimated now at 200 acres and is 10 percent contained as of 7 p.m. CST. Four tractor-plow units and multiple helicopters that were assigned to the Adkins Avenue Fire responded as soon it was reported, but stiff winds upward of 20 mph fanned the flames and pushed the fire toward nearby communities.

An evacuation order was issued for Clifford Chester Sims Veterans Administration Nursing Home and residents were transported to either a temporary shelter or nearby hospital depending on needs. The Star Ave Fire is growing, and updates will be issued as the situation develops. The cause of the fire is under investigation.


6:30 PM UPDATE:

Adkins Avenue Fire & Bertha Swamp Road Fire Update

BERTHA SWAMP ROAD FIRE: The Bertha Swamp Road Fire is now estimated at 9,000 acres and remains at 10 percent containment. This fire has shown significant activity throughout the day as winds pushed the fire through thick, dry, and dead trees and vegetation left behind from Hurricane Michael. Structure crews have been in place near the communities surrounding Bear Creek, south and east of US 231, as wildland firefighters worked to build containment lines to stem the fire’s forward progress.

Residents in the Bear Creek area were put under mandatory evacuation orders on Saturday as the fire pushed from its origin in Gulf County into Bay and Calhoun counties. There are 17 tractor-plow units working on the fire. Motorists and residents are encouraged to remain clear of the area and to follow updates from the Bay County Emergency Services on Facebook. Residents can register for emergency notifications at AlertBay.org.

ADKINS AVENUE FIRE: The Adkins Avenue Fire is now measured at 841 acres and is 35% contained. Early acreage estimates were hampered by smokey conditions and intense fire activity. As smoke conditions improved, firefighters were able to conduct better mapping. Gusty winds and erratic fire behavior tested containment lines all day, and several spot fires occurred outside of the lines. Firefighters quickly attacked to suppress the small spot fires. There are currently five tractor-plow units assigned to the Adkins Avenue Fire.

All evacuation orders for the Adkins Avenue Fire remain in place. There is no timeline for when residents will be allowed to return home. Motorists and residents are encouraged to remain clear of the area and to follow updates from the Bay County Emergency Services on Facebook. Residents can register for emergency notifications at AlertBay.org.

Star Avenue / Tram Road Fire & Sims Nursing Home Update

Governor Ron DeSantis discusses Bay County Wildfires

Statewide response to wildfires

Bay District Schools Wildfire Update

Current Burn Bans

How to help wildfire evacuees

Deer Point Lake Reservoir Update

Evacuation Zone Map: The yellow shaded areas represent the current mandatory evacuations. The areas are defined as:

The area between Transmitter Rd. and Star Ave. and south of Hwy 231 to U.S. 98 (Tyndall Pkwy.)

Bear Creek, area south of Scotts Ferry Rd. and east of Hwy 231.


5:30 PM: Sims Nursing Home Update

The Florida Department of Veteran’s Affairs issued an update about the evacuation of the Clifford C. Sims State Veterans’ Nursing Home. They said the facilities was evacuated as the recommendation of Bay County officials.

Residents were taken to the Bay County fairgrounds while those needing “elevated care” we taken to a hospital.

“Our team of professional health care providers will remain with the residents,” they wrote. They added that residents and staff will return to the facilities as soon as it is safe.

“We are evaluating options for longer-term care if the danger persists,” they wrote.

This map of the new fire was provided by Bay County Emergency Services.

5 PM: Bay District announces some schools will close Monday

We know many of you are anxious about the fire situation and we share your concerns. We have been in close contact with emergency officials since this situation began and we know our first responders are doing everything possible to save our homes and our community from further damage. I have always said that our first responders are our community heroes and I think we can all see why as we watch the news about the wild fires unfold.

Unfortunately, any fire situation is very fluid and it’s next to impossible to predict what will happen next. Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the difficult decision to close Tommy Smith Elementary, Waller Elementary and Merritt Brown Middle School for Monday only at this time. Employees at those schools, with the exception of administrators, will be off tomorrow and the schools will be closed to students. We know this is an inconvenience for many families but we also know that evacuations and other challenges are placing an undue burden on those communities and we want to do what we can to support those families.

We also know that many of our employees have had to evacuate and that getting to work tomorrow could be challenging. We have sent out a google form to find out how we can help and administrators will be in touch with employees in need if they haven’t already done so. We are working with a myriad of community agencies who want to help our employees and we encourage all employees to complete the google form if they haven’t already done so.

All other BDS schools will be open tomorrow (Monday) but any families who have evacuated, and are unable to get their children to school, should know that our administrators will be as flexible as possible and will work with them on an individual basis.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we all work through this difficult situation together. There is never a one-size-fits-all answer that makes everyone happy but we will always err on the side of the safety of our students and staff. Please continue to follow us on social media for regular updates in case of any additional closures. We do not expect any at this time but, again, the fire situation is unpredictable.

Again, I hope you will join me in continuing to thank our first responders and firefighters. But also, thank you to all BDS employees for doing their part. Our first responders are depending upon us to do what we do for their children so they can focus on doing what they need to do to fight these fires. Working together, we are #850Strong once more.

4:30 P.M: Forestry officials said Sunday they are fighting a new wildfire in Bay County. The news release from the Florida Forest Service is below:

The Florida Forest Service (FFS) responded to another wildfire in Bay County. The Star Ave Fire is estimated at 163 acres and is 45 percent contained as of 4 p.m. CST.

Four tractor-plow units and multiple helicopters that were assigned to the Adkins Avenue Fire responded as soon it was reported, but stiff winds upward of 20 mph fanned the flames and pushed the fire toward nearby communities.

An evacuation order was issued for Clifford Chester Sims Veterans Administration Nursing Home and residents were transported to either a temporary shelter or nearby hospital depending on needs. The Star Ave Fire is growing, and updates will be issued as the situation develops. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

3:30 PM: Governor Ron DeSantis speaks in Bay County

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.

3:00 PM UPDATE:


Sims Nursing Home Evacuation 3:00 PM:

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — First responders were racing Sunday afternoon to deal with a new wildfire and evacuate Clifford Chester Sims State Veterans Nursing Home

The new fire developed between Nehi and Tram Road. Officials said they are sending ambulances and Bay Area Transportation vans to get people out.

Crews are on their way to assess the fire scene. There are 88 residents in Sims.

The new fire is west of Star Avenue and north of Tram Road. It is 25 to 30 acres. Four bulldozers and several helicopters are on the way. Wind is playing a huge role, officials on the scene said. The fire is unnamed at this time.

Star Avenue from Nehi Road to Pittsburgh Avenue is closed. Tram Road from E. 15th to Star Avenue is closed.


2:00 PM UPDATE: Bay County officials have confirmed that they are evacuating Clifford Chester Sims State Veterans Nursing Home after a new fire developed between Nehi and Tram Road. Officials said they are sending ambulances and Bay Area Transportation vans to get people out.

Crews are on their way to assess the fire scene. There are 88 residents in Sims. Our reporter on the scene said crews are working to get them to safety and wetting down the area.

The new fire is west of Star Avenue and north of Tram Road. It is 25 to 30 acres. Four bulldozers and several helicopters are on the way. Wind is playing a huge role, officials on the scene said. The fire is unnamed at this time.

This photo of the new fire was provided by Bay County Emergency Services.

1:30 PM UPDATE: Bay District Schools issued this news release.

We know many of you have had to evacuate because of the fires and please know you are in our hearts and prayers.

We are awaiting an afternoon update from emergency management to make any final decisions regarding possible isolated school closures for tomorrow. But please understand that we are only considering extremely isolated closures, if any at all, at this time because our first responders and others need us to do what we do so they can do what we need them to do for our entire community.

We know tomorrow will be a difficult day regardless of what decision is made and we know that all of us will step up for our kids as we always do. Our mental health team will be ready to support our students and staff and we will get through this together AGAIN!

We will continue to update you as we can.


1:00 PM UPDATE:

Here is your relationship from Hurricane Michael and the Bertha Fire. The white line is the path Michael took.
With some of the smoke cleared from the #AdkinsAvenueFire, firefighters were able to conducting better mapping. The fire has been mapped at 841 acres, containment remains at 35% but is being evaluated.

12:00 PM UPDATE:


11:00 AM UPDATE: The Deer Point Lake Reservoir is closed to boaters from the Deer Point Dam to High Point Park due to the Adkins Avenue Fire and the Bertha Swamp Road Fire, according to Bay County Emergency Officials.

Water drafting operations will be conducted from the reservoir by National Guard air units. Helicopters are using the reservoir to scoop water to combat the flames.

MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife officers are clearing boat traffic and have boats on-scene to enforce the closure.

Officials said the closure is from sunrise to sunset and will remain in place daily until further notice.


10:00 AM UPDATE: BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay County Officials and firefighters are monitoring the two massive wildfires at the Panama City Mall Command Center.

“Really the big news for us this morning is that we have upped the containment of the Adkins Avenue Fire from 30 percent to 35 percent which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you look at the overall picture, any containment increase is good increases,” Florida Forest Service Mitigation Specialist Joe Zwierzchowski said.

Bay County Emergency Services Chief Brad Monroe said they are not out of the woods yet, but on Sunday they have more resources to help them fight the fires.

“The areas we have evacuated we are still holding on those we are in day three. We are not out of the woods yet. In fact, the weather is changing. We still have the basic weather forecast that we have had the last three days so the pop-up fires are still a possibility. The good news is, we have more assets. We have a lot more assets that came in from the state. And we also have the federal assets which are the large helicopters that will be helping us with water,” Bay County Emergency Services Chief Brad Monroe said.

The Bertha Swamp Road Fire is at 8,000 acres and 10 percent contained. The Adkins Avenue Fire remains at 1,400 and 35 percent contained.

“We will get people back to their homes as soon as possible, we are not trying to keep people away from their homes for any other reason than life or death circumstances. So as soon as we can get a definite, clear signal that there is no hazard for those areas we will let you back into your homes. Right now, we just cannot make that call,” Monroe said.


9:00 AM UPDATE: BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) —The Florida Forest Service continues to fight two large wildfires, the Adkins Avenue Fire and the Bertha Swamp Road fire.

Officials said they are deploying all available resources, including an additional four helicopters from the Florida National Guard, to contain both wildfires.

There are nearly 150 wildfires burning more than 12,100 acres throughout the state.

The Bertha Swamp Road Fire is currently 10 percent contained and has shown increased activity on Sunday morning.

Residents in the Bear Creek area were put under mandatory evacuation orders on Saturday as the fire pushed from Gulf County into Bay and Calhoun counties.

The Florida Forest Service has 17 tractor-plow units attacking the Bertha Swamp Road Fire.

Officials are encouraging drivers and residents to remain clear of the area and to follow updates from the Bay County Emergency Services on Facebook. Residents can register for emergency notifications at AlertBay.org.

The Adkins Avenue Fire is holding at 1,400 acres and is 35 percent contained, according to officials.

Florida Forest Service helicopters have dropped more than 103,000 gallons of water on the fire since Friday.

It is important for residents to use extreme caution and remain aware of current wildfire activity. To view active wildfires, visit FDACS.gov/ActiveWildfirePoints. To learn how to prevent and prepare for a wildfire, visit BeWildfireReadyFL.com.