UPDATE: Crews expect to battle wildfire in Santa Rosa County for next several days

Northwest Florida

UPDATE 8:34 PM — The Florida Forest Service provides its final update for Tuesday evening, saying that firefighters plan to monitor the area through the entire night.

Read unedited press release below:

Florida Forest Service crews worked to build containment line all day around the 250-acre Five Mile Swamp Fire and have it 40% contained this evening. Firefighters will patrol and monitor the perimeter throughout the night. 

Dry vegetation and swampy terrain made firefighting difficult as the fire exhibited extreme behavior at times. Fourteen tractor/plow units, three Florida Forest Service helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft were in service throughout the day. Avalon and Bagdad fire departments were in place for structure protection as a precaution. 

Tomorrow’s forecast calls for winds out of the north and a drop in humidity which has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Red Flag Warning for inland Santa Rosa County. These conditions will change the desired path of the fire and could potentially lead to increased fire activity.

As the wind shifts overnight, smoke might impact Interstate 10. Florida Highway Patrol is working with fire crews and will monitor the situation. If motorists encounter smoke on the roads, they are encouraged to treat it as fog, use their low-beam headlights and pull safely off the road if conditions warrant.

UPDATE 05/05 5:13 PM — An updated release was sent in by the Florida Forest Service, stating that the fire grew to 250 acres as firefighters struggled to cease the blaze. They expect to fight this fire for the next several days as winds pick up and push the fire deeper into the Five mile Swamp.

The full unedited press release is below:

Persistent winds, swampy terrain and dry surface vegetation hampered firefighting efforts most of the day Tuesday as 14 tractor/plow units from the Florida Forest Service worked to contain the Five mile Swamp Fire. The fire just south of the city of Milton grew to 250 acres and containment is at 30% as of 4 p.m.

Swamp fires such as this are notoriously difficult to fight as dry vegetation on the surface allows the fire to spread rapidly but a high water table means the soil just below remains wet and makes operating heavy bulldozers extremely difficult. Firefighters have battled these difficult conditions for two days and expect to remain with this fire for the next several. In addition to the tractor/plow units, a Florida Forest Service helicopter has been on scene since shortly before noon working to cool flare ups and hot spots dropping water from a 300-gallon bucket and a fixed-wing aircraft has been over head providing aerial reconnaissance.

Southerly winds have pushed the fire deeper into Five Mile Swamp and closer to the Ski Watch neighborhood and the area from Renee Circle to Audiss Road. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for winds out of the north and a drop in humidity which has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Red Flag Warning for inland Santa Rosa County. These conditions will change the desired path of the fire and could potential lead to increased fire activity.

Residents and motorists will encounter lingering smoke and are asked to use caution while driving, treat it as fog and use their low-beam headlights. Motorists should pull safely off the road and wait for the smoke to disperse if conditions warrant.

The fire is north of Interstate 10, east of Avalon Boulevard and the former Moors golf course and south of the Santa Rosa County Landfill. The fire was sparked by an escaped prescribed burn conducted by a contractor on private land. No structures were threatened as the fire never got closer than half a mile from the nearest residences which were located along Ski Lane and surrounded by water. Structure protection crews were in place from Avalon and Bagdad fire departments as a precautionary measure.

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 wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FDACS.gov/FLForestService.

UPDATE 1:35 PM –The Florida Forest Service says wildfire activity has picked up and they are working aggressively to contain the fire. The agency released new pictures of the blaze.

UPDATE 9:36 AM — Florida Forest Service released a statement Tuesday about the wildfires in Santa Rosa County:

UNEDITED PRESS RELEASE:

Firefighters continue to work on Five Mile Swamp Fire near I-10

MILTON, Fla. – Firefighters from the Florida Forest Service’s Blackwater Forestry Center are back on the scene of the Five Mile Swamp Fire to work on improving fire lines and increasing containment. The fire is estimated at 150 acres and is 40% contained.

The fire is north of Interstate 10, east of Avalon Boulevard and the former Moors golf course and south of the Santa Rosa County Landfill. The fire was sparked by an escaped prescribed burn conducted by a contractor on private land. No structures were threatened as the fire never got closer than half a mile from the nearest residences which were located along Ski Lane and surrounded by water. Structure protection crews were in place from Avalon and Bagdad fire departments as a precautionary measure.

Six tractor/plow units (bulldozers) are working the fire this morning with 10 tractor/plows involved at the height of the firefighting efforts. A Florida Forest Service helicopter made more than 100 drops from a 300-gallon water bucket yesterday and will be available as needed today as well as a fixed-wing aircraft for reconnaissance purposes.

There is no estimate on a containment date for this fire but it is anticipated that crews will be working for the next several days.

Residents and motorists will encounter lingering smoke and are asked to use caution while driving, treat it as fog and use their low-beam headlights. Motorists should pull safely off the road and wait for the smoke to disperse if conditions warrant.

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 wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FDACS.gov/FLForestService.

MILTON, Fla. (WKRG) — Santa Rosa County Emergency Management says a wildfire is burning north of Interstate 10 in Santa Rosa County.

Firefighters, four tractor/plow units, and one helicopter are on the scene east of Avalon Blvd. The fire was estimated at 50 acres around 4:30 p.m.

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