Veterans of the nursing home were evacuated, joining residents of more than 1,000 homes as firefighters and emergency workers battled two massive wildfires Sunday in the area Florida Panhandle, which is still recovering from the devastation caused by a Category 5 hurricane more than three years ago.

The 8,000-acre fire on Bertha Swamp Road and the 841-acre Otkins Avenue fire threatened homes and forced residents of at least 1,100 homes in Bay County to flee last weekend.

The fire on Edkins Avenue destroyed two structures and damaged 12 more homes late Friday. A local emergency official said that on Saturday, the second day of firefighting on Edkins Avenue, no homes were destroyed and no one was injured.

A third fire broke out on Sunday, forcing the evacuation of a 120-bed state nursing home in Panama City. Public transportation was used to move nursing home residents for Clifford Chester Sims veterans.

Buses were also on standby in case 1,300 inmates from a nearby Bay County Jail had to be evacuated to other facilities.

Local authorities said they did not know when residents would be able to return to their homes.

“It’s dangerous to return home at this time,” Bay County officials said online. “Please be patient while emergency services are fighting these dangerous fires.”

The county has opened a shelter in Bay County Fairgrounds for displaced residents.

“We understand and recognize that everyone wants to go home, and that it was a huge inconvenience,” said Valerie Sale, a spokeswoman for Bay County.

A fire on Edkins Avenue has been burning in Bay County since Friday, forcing at least 600 homes to be evacuated, and on Sunday morning it was put out by 35%.

A much larger fire in Bertha’s swamps began in the neighboring Gulf county on Friday, but spread to Bay and Calhoun counties on Saturday, forcing the evacuation of another 150 homes. It was 10% on Sunday morning.

Fire officials said Florida Forest Service helicopters had dropped more than 103,000 gallons (468,000 gallons) of water on fire on Edkins Avenue since Friday, and 25 bulldozers were deployed to break fire lines.

“Unfortunately, what we have today is almost a copy of yesterday’s weather,” said Joe Zverzhovsky, a spokesman for the Florida Forest Service, Sunday morning.

“We are seeing strong steady winds of 10 to 15 miles per hour with gusts of up to 25 miles per hour. So it will make the situation very dynamic. “

According to the Florida Forest Service, Hurricane Michael in 2018 was directly responsible for 16 deaths and losses of about $ 25 billion in the U.S., and it left behind 72 million tons of destroyed trees that provided fuel for Bay County Forest Fires.

There are now nearly 150 wildfires across Florida, burning more than 12,100 acres, and the state is just at the beginning of its regular forest fire season.

“It’s incredibly dry all over the state, and we usually see it in April and May,” Zverzhkhovsky said. “Seeing it in early March really gives us an idea of ​​what the fire season will be like.”

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