Panama City Beach, Fla. (WMBB) — The Florida Forest Service dispatched crews to a rapidly growing wildfire around noon on Monday.
What we found was a lot of really erratic fire behavior,” Florida Forest Service Operations Administrator Michael Klassen said. “It was running through young pines, a lot of heavy fuel loading. It’s abnormal for this time of year, early spring.”
The Steelfield Fire, as it is officially being called, started north of Steelfield Road, west of Highway 79. The fire received a quick and large response from multiple agencies as it posed an immediate danger to people’s houses.
“There were several homes that were threatened early in the fire,” Bay County Emergency Services Chief Brad Monroe said. “We were able to establish the protection lines around all of those homes with the good work of Panama City Beach.”
“Our mission right out of the gate is always to protect life and property,” Panama City Beach Fire Rescue Chief Ray Morgan said. “We moved to that first and then look towards minimizing the spread of the fire, the containment.”
As of 7:30 pm CST, the fire was 250 acres and 60% contained, but officials said the initial containment posed quite a challenge as high winds caused the fire to jump over Highway 79.
“We had some strong winds earlier today and it spotted over,” Monroe said. “The wind picks up the embers from the fires and spreads it throughout the area and with these dry conditions we had spot fires and that’s what we’re seeing across the highway there on the east side of 79.”
Chief Monroe stated that a team will remain in place overnight to monitor the fire.
Authorities are encouraging people to use extreme caution when burning outdoors during the increasingly dry conditions over the next month.