Wildfires force evacuations in Florida

Wildfires force evacuations in Florida

"Next thing you know, the fire was right there", said Felder, 45, recounting the minutes Wednesday afternoon when a raging fire swept through his bucolic wooded neighborhood.

"Swamp fires such as this are notoriously hard to fight as dry vegetation on the surface allows the fire to spread rapidly", the FFS said on its second day fighting the blaze, adding that it expected firefighting efforts to continue for several days. Officials have warned residents to avoid these areas.

Wildfires raging in the Florida Panhandle have forced almost 500 people to evacuate from their homes, authorities said. Nine miles of the highway still were closed Thursday morning, CNN affiliate WKRG reported.

The firebreak was about a half-mile from a neighborhood, officials said.

While the fires in Santa Rosa and Walton counties are the only two of significant size that have triggered evacuations, the FFS's active wildfire data showed that 52 fires were burning as of Thursday morning. Authorities said the fire began when a contractor lost control of a prescribed burn on private property.

The so-called Five Mile Swamp Fire broke out Monday in the southern area of Santa Rosa County between Escambia Bay and Blackwater Bay.

In a place accustomed to hurricanes, officials said many residents were ready to flee when given the word - although scores of people stayed behind, water hoses in hand, to stand against the fire.

On Thursday morning, Walton County Emergency Management said on Facebook that the blaze was 60 percent contained.

'This is an extremely unsafe and fast-moving wildfire situation that is evolving rapidly, so everyone in the affected area should follow directions from state and local officials, ' said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

"They're pretty common, especially this time of year, this is wildfire season really all throughout Florida really based on our weather patterns and so forth".

'What made this (fire) today was the wind, to go along with the dry conditions and low humidity, ' Cullen said of the fire near Pensacola.

By Wednesday night, the fire covered at least 335 acres and is about 40 per cent contained. The fire destroyed 14 homes, but authorities said there had been no deaths or injuries.

The Forest Service said multiple structures have been lost in the 2,000-acre fire, and authorities are recommending residents south of Interstate 10 to evacuate. A fire weather is also in effect for Hendry, Glades and the immediate coastal area of east-coast counties, the National Weather Service in Miami said.

Vehicles from the Miami Beach Fire Department drive through Miami's South Beach neighborhood on April 17.

Riding along with the Florida Forest Service, we got a close look at the heartbreaking damage.

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