Wildfires grow in U.S. state Florida

Wildfires grow in U.S. state Florida

Wildfires grow in U.S. state Florida
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WASHINGTON – At least 600 homes had been evacuated in the Florida Panhandle, the northwest part of the southeasternmost U.S. state of Florida, as wildfires continued to grow in the state, officials said on Saturday.

There are currently 148 wildfires burning more than 7,100 acres (roughly 2,873 hectares) across Florida, the Florida Forest Service tweeted on Saturday afternoon. More than half of the acres are from two wildfires in the Florida Panhandle, according to the agency.

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The fires “are seeing significant growth at this time because of high winds,” the Chipola Forestry Center, which services Bay County and much of the Florida Panhandle, wrote in an update. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters on Saturday that hundreds of thousands of acres of downed trees from 2018’s Hurricane Michael, along with low humidity and strong winds, created “the perfect storm” for hazardous fire conditions in Bay County.

“This is a really significant, fast-moving fire,” DeSantis said during a press conference in Panama City. More than 200 firefighters and emergency workers from around the Florida Panhandle worked overnight to strengthen containment lines and protect homes, officials said.

The wildfires had forced residents of at least 600 homes in the Florida Panhandle to evacuate, but that figure was expected to grow as new neighborhoods were placed under evacuation orders throughout the day. Two houses had already been destroyed, with 12 others damaged. Michael was a Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the United States in October 2018.

The hurricane was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about 25 billion U.S. dollars in damage in the nation, according to federal authorities. It also left behind 2.8 million acres (about 1.1 million hectares) of shredded and uprooted trees in the Florida Panhandle, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried said on Saturday.

“Hurricane Michael left an additional threat to our communities — wildfires,” Fried said. “Wildfires are never easy control. This added fuel and dense pockets of vegetation from Hurricane Michael will increase the intensity of wildfires.”

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