Two massive wildfires burning in an area of the Florida Panhandle became three late Sunday, adding a veterans nursing home to the growing list of evacuated dwellings.
The Florida Forest Service said Monday that evacuation orders affecting more than 1,000 homes, caused by the Bertha Swamp Road Fire and the Adkins Avenue Fire, would remain in place.
Both fires started Friday. The Bertha Swamp Road Fire was at about 12,000 acres and 20 percent containment Monday, while the Adkins Avenue Fire was at about 841 acres and 40 percent containment, Bay County Emergency Services said.
A third fire, the Star Avenue Fire, started Sunday; it was at 250 acres and 45 percent containment Monday, according to the Florida Forest Service. The fire forced the evacuation of the 120-bed Clifford Chester Sims State Veterans' Nursing Home in Panama City.
All three fires are now being referred to as the Chipola Complex, officials said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis called the larger Bertha Swamp Road Fire “a big boy” at a news conference in Panama City on Sunday afternoon, saying, “It’s moving very quickly.”
The Bertha Swamp Road 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," the Forest Service said in a statement, adding, "Today will bring much of the same winds but an increase in humidity and cloud cover could help reduce intensity."
Hurricane Michael was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in 2018. It left behind 72 million tons of destroyed trees that have provided fuel for the Bay County wildfires, according to the Forest Service. There are 171 wildfires burning more than 15,000 acres throughout the state.