BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Almost three million acres of timber fell in the hurricane, so officials said they aren’t surprised that a fire this large erupted.
Officials said the fire has been spreading so rapidly because of all the timber still on the ground from Hurricane Michael.
“As we’ve been saying for three years, over three years with Hurricane Michael debris on the ground, unfortunately, something like this was expected,” Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried said.
The Adkins Avenue fire has grown to 1,400 acres, with residents in Springfield, east of Transmitter Road joining the growing list of evacuees.
Fried said the fire is about 30 percent contained.
Crews have created fire lines to protect a veteran’s nursing home on the south side of the fire and homes on the north side.
“It’s a lot of timber. It’s $1.3 billion worth of timber that’s on the ground that takes time. And so for one we’ve been really able to create a lot of the fire lines across residential property, create buffers which have really been very helpful,” Fried said.
The Bertha Swamp Fire that originated in Gulf County has spread to Bear Creek in Youngstown.
That fire is now 8,000 acres.
“We know that that fear is real. And reliving those emotions from the first time around is certainly something that our hearts go out to all the individuals that have been displaced for potentially the second time,” Fried said.
Fried said the state has worked as quickly as they could with money available to clean up Hurricane Michael debris.
Representative Neal Dunn said that FEMA grants for fire management have already been approved.
“We gotta address all these trees that fell over in Hurricane Michael. And there are three million acres of trees on the ground. We’re cleaning them up, but nobody’s ever seen that much fuel on the ground before,” Dunn said.
Dunn said that the Panhandle has more timber on the ground than anywhere else in the country.
“Literally nobody’s ever seen this much wood on the ground in the history of the country. And it’s unburned, this didn’t burn down it fell down. So it became firewood and of course, it’s dried out over the course of three years,” Dunn said.
Fried said they are looking for more funding at the state and federal level to clean up debris from Hurricane Michael more quickly.