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UPDATE: Five Mile Swamp Fire - Strong winds increase fire activity on north perimeter

Staff Writer
Northwest Florida Daily News
Northwest Florida Daily News

Update 3 p.m.:

As wind speeds and wind gusts strengthen, firefighters working to contain the Five Mile Swamp Fire are seeing more active fire behavior.

Winds are prevailing from the south and southwest at 13 to 18 mph, gusting up to 25 mph. That has increased fire activity on the north and northeast perimeter of fires.

The Five Mile Swamp Fire is still about 2,180 acres and 35% contained.

A separate fire in Escambia County, the Hurst Hammock Fire, is still 1,100 acres and 40% contained.

Additional Florida Forest Service staff and equipment from throughout the state are helping local crews battle both fires.

Resources include 185 personnel (including 115 with the Florida Forest Service), 30 dozers, 26 engines and two medium helicopters assigned to both of wildfires.

People should not fly drones at this time because they interfere with air support, forcing helicopter operations to stay grounded and impeding firefighting efforts.

Update 1:30 p.m.: Crews strengthen containment lines on fire's north edge as winds shift

Winds blowing northward have authorities warning that the northeastern part of the Five Mile Swamp Fire could get more active as the effort to contain the blaze continues this afternoon.

As of about 1:30 p.m., the 2,180-acre fire was still about 35% contained. Fourteen homes have been destroyed in the fire, county officials confirmed.

Florida Forest Service spokesman Todd Schroeder said firefighters are concerned about the fire getting close to neighborhoods to the north, but none of them are under immediate threat, as of about 1:30 p.m.

He said crews have built a stronger containment line on the fire's northern side, and the fire line is about a mile from neighborhoods.

Also, Santa Rosa County officials are advising that when the area affected by the Ffire eventually reopens, it will only be open to residents.

County spokeswoman Brandi Bates said areas haven't reopened yet, but authorities are advising the public that the area will only be reopened to residents.

Florida Forest Service wildland firefighters, in coordination with Santa Rosa County Public Safety and area fire departments, have been working to contain the fire in Santa Rosa County's Garcon Point area.

Fire personnel are providing 'mop up' tactics today, doing all we can to ensure the area is as safe as possible before we allow residents back into areas that had previously been evacuated," said Public Safety Director Brad Baker in a news release. "In addition, extra structural protection resources have been brought in to assist with the firefighting efforts and citizens may see them staged in areas as a precaution, should a hot spot flare up outside the perimeter."

Update 11:30 a.m.: I-10 opens both directions

Interstate 10 is reopen to traffic.

Smoke levels have decreased enough to allow the road to be reopen, according to state Sen. Doug Broxson.

Officials are monitoring fire activity and crews are standing by if smoke levels require the road to be closed again.

The road was closed Wednesday from Exit 22 to Exit 31.

Broxson said his office was involved in discussion to reopen the road to traffic.

Cones have been removed and traffic is flowing again.

Update 9 a.m.: Increase fire activity expected

The Florida Forest Service is warning about an increase in fire activity on the Five Mile Swamp as winds are shifting direction and expected to strengthen.

The Five Mile Swamp Fire in Santa Rosa County has now burned about 2,180 acres and is 35% contained, according to the Florida Forest Service.

Another fire, the Hurst Hammock fire in Escambia County, was about 1,100 acres and 40% contained Friday morning.

The forest service said increased winds out of the south of 13 to 18 mph, with gusts up to 25 mph, will increase fire activity on the north-northeast perimeters of the fires. Smoke will also impact communities to the north of the fires.

Evacuations/Re-Entry:

Closed – Everything on Garcon Point Road east to the Blackwater Bay from I-10 to Mary Kitchens remains closed.

Level 1 - Everything south of Mary Kitchens Road on Avalon and Garcon Point Road, and on the west side of Avalon is at a Level 1 evacuation, meaning residents can return to their homes but need to stay aware. Level 1 also extends up to Da Lisa Road

Level 2 - Indian Bayou to Mary Kitchens Road and the houses along Mary Kitchens Road are a Level 2 evacuation and may return to home but must be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.

The Santa Rosa County Citizen Information Center is open. Those who have evacuated or who have questions may call 850-983-INFO (4636).