Hundreds evacuated in ‘extremely dangerous’ Florida wildfires

Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes as firefighters battled wildfires in northwest Florida overnight.

A blaze spanning more than 575 acres in Walton County forced 500 people to evacuate, destroying around 18 homes.

Police said “multiple structures” were lost in the fire, which was 65% contained as of Thursday morning.

Those who were asked to leave their homes but had no place to go were sent to a local high school to take shelter.

Florida fire. Pic: @FDACS
Image:Hundreds were evacuated from their homes because of the fires. Pic: @FDACS

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning on Wednesday as three fires burned in the Florida Panhandle, northwest of the US state, according to local news reports.

Another wildfire broke out on Monday afternoon in neighbouring Santa Rosa County as high winds and low humidity caused the blaze to expand 10 times in size, the Florida Forest Service said in a statement.

It started as a prescribed burn at a private property before growing out of control, according to the Tampa Bay Times, and had burned 2,000 acres as of Wednesday.

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The Forest Service added that multiple structures were lost in the blaze, but did not make clear how many people were evacuated from the area.

So far, around 20% of the fire has been contained, police said.

The evacuation order will remain in effect until midday local time on Thursday and then will be re-evaluated at that time, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a statement.

“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.

Most of Florida has had less rainfall than usual so far this year.

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National Weather Service meteorologist Jack Cullen said the dryness and strong winds helped fuel the fires on Wednesday.

“What made this (fire) today was the wind, to go along with the dry conditions and low humidity,” he told The Tampa Bay Times.

There have been no reports of injuries or deaths.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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