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Three wildfires burn in Bay County, what you need to know

Smoke from the Bertha Swamp Fire clouds visibility.
Smoke from the Bertha Swamp Fire clouds visibility.(WJHG/WECP)
Published: Mar. 6, 2022 at 5:49 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Three wildfires continue to burn in Bay County Wednesday, but evacuations have been lifted in Bay County.

Before we break down the details of each fire here are things you need to know. This information is constantly changing and we update as we learn new details.

EVACUATIONS

Wednesday morning, the last evacuation order for Bay County was lifted. This was for the Bear Creek community.

SHELTER

The Bay County Fairgrounds has been designated as a shelter for those who have had to evacuate their homes. That address is 2230 15th Street.

According to a Facebook post from Tyndall Air Force Base, the Air Force Aid Society is providing $600 grants to families who qualify. The grants can be used for lodging, gas, and food for families who are affected by county-mandated evacuations with a financial need. To qualify, you must be active-duty, guard and reserved regardless of duty status, retirees, or a spouse with power of attorney. To apply, call the local on-call AFAS liaison at 850-866-7530 or click “apply for assistance now” at https://afas.org/emergencyassistance.

SCHOOL CLOSURES

Wednesday Waller Elementary School was the only Bay District School closed.

STAR AVENUE FIRE

The wildfire reported Sunday off of Star Avenue is estimated to be 197 acres and is 80 percent contained as of 9:30 a.m Wednesday. Officials say this fire started Sunday near Tram Road and Star Avenue. Florida Forest Service Officials say four tractor plow units and multiple helicopters assigned to the Adkins Avenue Fire responded as soon as this fire was reported. They say stiff winds fanned the flames and pushed the fire toward nearby communities, but no homes or structures have been damaged or destroyed.

An evacuation order was issued for Chester Sims Nursing Home due to this fire.

ADKINS AVENUE FIRE

After days of poor visibility due to the smoke, firefighters were able to see better Sunday when some of the smoke cleared out and tell us they could map the Adkins Avenue Fire better. The fire turned out to be a few hundred acres smaller than first believed. As of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the fire is at 875 acres. The fire is 80 percent contained.

BERTHA SWAMP ROAD FIRE

As of Wednesday morning, the Bertha Swamp Road Fire is now 33,047 acres and still only 10 percent contained. This fire began in Gulf County and spread to neighboring Bay and Calhoun Counties. Authorities in Gulf County tell us no homes are threatened in that area, but this fire did cause evacuations in Bay County.

CHIPOLA COMPLEX

Fire officials are referring to the firefighting efforts of these three wildfires as Chipola Complex. They say when two or more wildfires are burning close together in the same area, they are often called a “complex” and attacked by firefighters under a unified command.

DEER POINT LAKE RESERVOIR

The Deer Point Lake Reservoir is closed to boaters from the Deer Point Dam to High Point Park. Water drafting operations will be conducted from the reservoir by National Guard air units. The closure is from sunrise to sunset and will remain in place daily until further notice.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

We’ve had many phone calls and messages sent to our newsroom about how the local community can help.

Bay County Emergency Officials say please go to rebuildbaycounty.org to donate money to help our impacted residents or to sign up to volunteer. At this time they say they do not have the ability to manage physical donations right now. You can click “Donate” on rebuildbaycounty.org, text DONATE to (850) 783-4311, or checks can be mailed to Rebuild Bay County at PO Box 306, PC 32402. Please specify Wildfire.

Rebuild Bay says if you would like to bring supplies to the Bay County Fairgrounds where an evacuation shelter has been established, they are in need of water, nonperishable food, diapers, and hygiene products. They say they do not need clothes and household items.

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