Fire officials are hoping that a light, steady rain in the Florida Panhandle will help ease three wildfires that have threatened homes and caused hundreds of residents to evacuate
The rain was a break from five days of dry, windy conditions that had fueled three wildfires in and around Bay County, Florida.
The rain should allow firefighters access to previously dangerous areas so that they can plow containment lines around the wildfires, fire officials said.
Over the weekend, residents were evacuated from 1,100 houses in Bay County, but more than half were allowed to return home on Monday. So far, only two homes have been destroyed and another dozen damaged, with the destruction occurring last Friday. The fire that caused that damage, the 875-acre (355-hectare) Adkins Avenue Fire, was 80% contained on Wednesday, fire officials said.
A smaller fire that had caused the evacuation of a state-operated nursing home for veterans, the 197-acre (80-hectare) Star Ave. Fire, also was 80% contained Wednesday. Residents were allowed to return earlier in the week.
The largest of the wildfires, the Bertha Swamp Road Fire, grew to more than 33,000 acres on Wednesday and was 10% contained. It started in Gulf County and expanded into neighboring Bay and Calhoun counties. An undisclosed number of residents in Calhoun County were evacuated on Tuesday.
The Florida Forest Service said Wednesday that there were 120 wildfires burning more than 37,000 acres (15,000 hectares) throughout Florida.