TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Forest Service’s Blue Incident Management team has assumed command of the Adkins Avenue Fire, Bertha Swamp Road Fire and a new fire, Star Ave Fire, that started on Sunday. Firefighting efforts for these wildfires are being coordinated under the name Chipola Complex. When two or more wildfires are burning close together in the same area, they are often called a “complex” and attacked by firefighters under a unified command.
Bertha Swamp Road Fire:
The Bertha Swamp Road Fire is now estimated at 12,000 acres and containment is at 10%. The fire has shown extreme activity for two days as steady winds pushed the fire through thick, dry, and dead trees and vegetation left behind from Hurricane Michael. Winds pushed the Bertha Swamp Road Fire from its origin in Gulf County on Friday, into Calhoun County and then Bay County on Saturday. Today will bring much of the same winds but an increase in humidity and cloud cover could help reduce intensity.
A strike team of heavy bulldozers is focusing on building firelines and defensible space around the communities near Bear Creek. The heavy bulldozers are better equipped to move large volumes of debris and to establish wider firelines than typical initial attack tractor-plow units. In addition to the strike team, there are 19 tractor-plows working to contain the fire.
Mandatory evacuations remain in place for residents in and around the Bear Creek area south and east of US 231. 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 841 acres and 40% contained. Early acreage estimates were hampered by smoky conditions and intense fire activity, but firefighters were able to conduct better mapping. Several spot fires occurred outside of the firelines on Sunday as high winds battered containment lines. Firefighters quickly attacked to suppress the small spot fires. There are 20 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 Ave Fire:
The Star Ave Fire is estimated at 250 acres and 45% containment. This fire ignited Sunday near Tram Road and Star Avenue and forced the evacuation of the Clifford Chester Sims State Veterans Nursing Home. The Star Ave Fire grew rapidly in Hurricane Michael debris as it was pushed by steady winds. Nearby resources were able to respond quickly, and no homes or structures have been damaged or destroyed.
There are currently 171 wildfires burning more than 15,000 acres throughout Florida. Florida Forest Service wildland firefighters and resources from numerous fire and emergency service departments are working around the clock to help suppression efforts.
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.
The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres.
–Florida Forest Service