More Than 30 Homes ‘Total Losses’ in Florida wildfire; 22 Buildings Also Destroyed in 2 California Fires
All Client Alert
June 25, 2018
Updated 6/25/18: The office of California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued a press release titled Governor Brown Declares State of Emergency in Lake County Due to Pawnee Fire.
NOTE: This is independent from any FEMA Declared Disaster.
Source: USA Today
A fast-moving wildfire along the coast of Florida’s Panhandle has destroyed more than 30 homes, authorities said Monday.
The fire broke out at about 4 p.m. ET Sunday in Eastpoint, about 60 miles southwest of Tallahassee near Apalachicola. Firefighters from Franklin County and neighboring jurisdictions used 13 bulldozers and eight fire engines to beat back the blaze, which by midnight had burned into Tate’s Hell State Forest.
“It’s bad, it’s real bad,” said Hugh Hartsfield, a volunteer firefighter from Alligator Point, noting that he’s never seen a fire that was so destructive. “There were so many houses on fire and so many total losses, you try to find one that had only partially caught on fire that you could save.”
He said the scene after the fire burned through looked like a war zone.
The 1½-square-mile fire is now 80% contained, Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said. As many as 200 residents have been displaced.
“It was probably one of the most intense fires I’ve ever seen in my career, how quickly it moved and how quickly it destroyed homes,” Smith said.
No lives were lost, but many residents lost everything.
“It was hell,” said Ann Putnal, whose home was destroyed. An estimated 125 people are now homeless because of what has been dubbed the Limerock Wildfire.
Nearly 2,500 miles away in the community of Clearlake Oaks, California, about 90 miles north of San Francisco, the Pawnee Fire that broke out Saturday destroyed 22 homes and buildings and threatened an additional 600, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
More than 230 firefighters using helicopters, bulldozers and other equipment are battling the Lake County fire in a rugged area that made it difficult to get equipment close the blaze, Fire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said.
“It’s kind of the worst possible combination,” he said.
No containment was reported Monday in the fire that burned across almost 13 square miles, and it was unclear how many of the structures burned were housing. Authorities ordered people to evacuate all homes in the Spring Valley area, where about 3,000 people live.
Farther north, the Stoll Fire spanning about a half a square mile in Tehama County has destroyed “multiple residential and commercial buildings,” Cal Fire said. But firefighters appeared to be making good progress, and it is 60% contained.
Two other fires in Northern California have threatened structures but burned no buildings. No cause has been determined for any of the California fires.
Officials said hot weather, high winds and dry conditions are fueling the Western wildfires less than a year after California’s costliest fires killed 44 people and tore through the state’s wine country in October, causing an estimated $10 billion in damage.
Back in Florida, word had gone out that the Humane Society animal shelter was being evacuated and animals were being removed from the shelter because of the fire in Eastpoint.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this and the brave first responders battling the fire,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted at about 10 p.m. Sunday.
Those caught in the fire’s path described a desperate scene.
Barbra Fox, 48, could see the fire approaching from across the street. Jeff Savage, her roommate, came in to warn her and her five dogs that they had to leave.
They tried to put out the flames near their house with a garden hose, but the fire surrounded it.
“The wind would blow, and the embers would go through the air and catch anything on fire. I thought we were going to die,” she said from a makeshift shelter at the Eastpoint fire station.
She said her house made it, but her neighbors’ homes weren’t so lucky. She saw four houses across the street that were destroyed.
Witnesses shared photos and video of a surreal scene on Facebook and described heavy smoke across U.S. 98 and ashes falling on St. George Island.
A photo taken by airplane showed a massive pillar of smoke rising over Eastpoint.
One woman posted a dramatic video of the fire approaching her home and wrote, “my house is bout to burn down.”
What caused the coastal Florida wildfire was not immediately clear though many on Facebook noted that storms were blowing through as the fire began.
USA Today published an article outlining wildfire activity in Florida and California.