As the Sunshine State continues to experience a drought, two wildfires in the Florida Panhandle have forced nearly 500 to evacuate their homes. A 575-acre wildfire in Walton County has accompanied a 2,000-acre fire in Santa Rosa County that broke out on Monday, the Florida Forest Service reports. As the counties continue to put out the fires, parts of Central and all of South Florida are currently under a fire weather watch.
"This is an extremely dangerous 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 in a press release on Wednesday. “All residents and travelers should heed evacuation requests and closely monitor the media for updates on the wildfire and reopening of I-10 and local roads."
The two wildfires have been named the Five Mile Swamp Fire and the Musset Bayou Fire, and are the result of high winds and low humidity, according to the Florida Forest Service.
The National Weather Service has also reported similar conditions in South Florida, noting "elevated fire weather risk" in Miami.
🚨WILDFIRE UPDATE🚨 @FLForestService crews are in day 3 of suppression efforts on the #5MileSwampFire. Additional fi… https://t.co/rVJdVGeJHQ— FL Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services (@FL Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services)1588794304.0
Like most of Florida, the Panhandle has been experiencing a lack of a rainy season, with parts of the area being abnormally dry, verging on a drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“Spring and early summer are the peak of Florida’s year-round wildfire season, making it necessary for residents to be extra careful with outdoor burning,” Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service said in an April press release. “With the rainfall below normal and current weather conditions across the state, I urge all residents to understand their role in preventing wildfires and avoiding further tragedy in our state.”
More than 50% of the state is currently in a drought.
A very dangerous situation is unfolding near Pensacola as the #5mileswampfire is rapidly spreading and experiencing… https://t.co/DzBlIM6PEg— Garrett Harvey (@Garrett Harvey)1588800032.0
The state's agriculture department had reported that more than 700 wildfires have burned through approximately 8,200 acres in Florida since January.
The report, which was released back at the start of April, notes that people caused a majority of those fires and that there were 62 active wildfires currently burning more than 1,740 acres across the state.
Bad wildfires in the Panhandle of FL and today the danger will be in South FL thanks to dry and breezy conditions!… https://t.co/57zeNMFfsK— Alex Wallace (@Alex Wallace)1588855980.0
A red flag warning was issued for the entire Panhandle, and parts of Central and all of South Florida will remain on the fire weather watch until Thursday afternoon.