The fire is still spreading, according to the Florida Forestry Service, but no homes or structures are endangered at this time.
GULF COUNTY — A wildfire in rural Gulf County surpassed 8,000 acres Thursday morning, but no homes or structures are threatened at this time, and no public roads have been closed.
The fire initially was reported at about 100 acres Tuesday morning, said Hannah Bowers, public information officer for the Florida Forestry Service’s Chipola District.
“We have been working 24 hour shifts,” Bowers said. “We have it estimated at 8,015 acres as of this morning. It is still spreading.”
A separate fire was burning in Bay County on Thursday afternoon, spanning about 7 acres near the intersection of State Road 22 and Allanton Road. Bay County Fire Rescue officials said no structures were endangered by that fire, either.
Bowers said 42 pieces of firefighting equipment were working the Gulf County fire Thursday, including 31 bulldozers, one engine and excavators. A Florida Forestry Service helicopter and plane also have made trips over the acreage to give ground crews “an eye in the sky,” Bowers said.
The fire began near the intersection of county roads 71 and 386, south of Wewahitchka. All of the land affected by the fire belongs to one property owner, Bowers said, and none of the affected roads are public.
The property owner, according to records from the Gulf County Property Appraiser's Office, belongs to Deseret Ranches of North Florida. The company, a massive ranching operation run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, owns 374 parcels in Gulf County, most of which are multi-hundred-acre parcels.
Smoke conditions, however, have spread across the region, with reports of hazy conditions reported throughout Gulf County and as far west as Lynn Haven and Panama City.
The fire has been partially contained, but Bowers said crews expect conditions to flare up again this afternoon.
“Typically around 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon is our worst time,” she said. “That time, winds start shifting because of sea breezes, the humidity typically goes down, winds increase, the temperature heats up … so typically, that’s when we see our most extreme fire danger.”
The department’s helicopter will be dispatched this afternoons as those conditions arrive.
Bowers said the nearest homes are about a mile away from the fire but are not considered to be in any kind of danger at this time. Florida Forestry Service has advised anyone living within the heavy smoke region stay indoors and keep their indoor air as clean as possible, keeping the air-conditioner running and replacing filters. Do not use any candles or anything that burns inside the home, and do not vacuum, which will stir up particles in the room and can worsen conditions. Anyone with a respiratory condition or concerned about inhaling smoke is advised to wear an N95 mask for partial protection.