- Homes were burned and residents evacuated as wildfires burned in the Florida Panhandle.
- Hundreds of structures south of I-10 are threatened in Santa Rosa County.
- Another fire has burned structures in Walton County.
- Like most of Florida, much of the Panhandle is either abnormally dry or in a drought.
Firefighters continued to battle a raging wildfire in the Florida Panhandle overnight that has burned several buildings and forced people to flee their homes.
Some of the Florida Panhandle residents forced out by a wildfire were allowed to return home Thursday afternoon, but they were warned to remain vigilant as firefighters continue to battle the aggressive Five Mile Swamp Fire.
The Santa Rosa County fire was one of three large wildfires burning in northwest Florida Thursday. The other two are the 300-acre Hurst Hammock 2 Fire in Escambia County and the 575-acre Mussett Bayou Fire in Walton County.
The Five Mile Swamp Fire forced the closing of a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 10 through Santa Rosa County. The interstate remained closed Thursday afternoon. Traffic backed up for hours on U.S. Highway 90 and State Road 80, two of the detour routes.
The blaze, which had grown rapidly to more than 3 square miles, was 35% contained as of late Thursday night. On Wednesday, residents of at least 1,100 homes had been told to evacuate.
Video from the scene Thursday showed homes in smoldering ruins.
At least 17 houses and other buildings were destroyed or damaged, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said at a briefing Thursday afternoon.
That number is sure to be higher, Santa Rosa County Emergency Management Director Brad Baker said at the briefing. He added that officials have confirmed at least 13 homes were destroyed.
Those families were being sheltered at hotels because of fears of the new coronavirus being spread at regular shelters, Baker said.
Gulf Power said more than 70 utility poles had burned and power was out in much of the area.