• The Five Mile Swamp Fire in Santa Rosa County is the largest of three wildfires in Florida, engulfing around 2,000 acres and destroying or damaging 18 buildings
  • Crews in Walton County had managed to contain 65% of the second fire that had burned through nearly 600 acres
  • The smallest of the three fires was in Escambia County and had engulfed around 300 acres, but was not yet considered a threat to homes 

More 1,000 people in the Florida Panhandle were forced to evacuate their homes Thursday as wildfires raged. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also asked motorists to steer clear of Santa Rosa County as firefighters tried to contain what has been dubbed the Five Mile Swamp Fire.

It was the biggest of three wildfires burning through Florida on Thursday.

“Residents south of Interstate 10 and east of Avalon Boulevard have been recommended to evacuate,” the state’s agriculture department said in a press release. “The evacuation will continue until 12 p.m. Thursday, May 7, and will be further evaluated at that time.”

The fire reportedly started on private property in Santa Rosa County as a controlled burn. However, it grew out of control and began to spread to surrounding properties thanks to a combination of strong winds and low humidity. Authorities said 18 buildings had been destroyed or damaged by Wednesday. The 2,000-acre blaze was 20% contained.

Emergency shelters were established in Santa Rosa County and officials encouraged residents to evacuate to the shelters despite coronavirus concerns.

Fire crews were also fighting to contain a wildfire in Walton County that engulfed nearly 600 acres. The Walton County Sheriff’s Office said the conflagration was 65% contained and was started by an individual.

“It boils down to an illegal burning,” Sheriff Michael Adkinson told Mobile CBS-affiliate, WKRG. The suspect, whose name hasn’t been released, allegedly violated a burn ban and is expected to be arrested soon.

“Not a meth lab explosion, not atomic, nothing like that, it’s just somebody burning when they shouldn’t have been burning.”

The smallest of the three fires was located in Escambia County and had been dubbed the Hurst Hammock 2 Fire. Authorities have not identified the source of the wildfire, but strong winds allowed the fire to spread Wednesday through the county’s woodland area.

Around 300 acres had been consumed by the fire, which was 20% contained. Homes have not been threatened by the blaze and county officials have not ordered residents to evacuate.

Representational picture of firefighters putting out a fire. David Mark/Pixabay