UPDATE: Bertha Swamp Road blaze now at 12,000 acres

UPDATE March 7 9:30 a.m.: The Bertha Swamp Road fire grew to 12,000 acres overnight according ot Bay County Emergency Management.

The fire is now 20 percent contained.

UPDATE 7:00 p.m.: THe Florida Forest Service’s Blue Incident Management team will assume command of the Bertha Swamp Road fire and the Adkins Avenue fire on Monday. 

The Bertha Swamp Road fire continues to grow going into the night. The fire continues to burn in Gulf County, but no Gulf County homes are threatened at this time. 

Emergency crews remain on standby.

The Adkins Avenue fire was measured at 841 acres on Sunday evening, down from 1,400 acre estimates earlier in the day. The fire remains at 35 percent containment.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: Gov. Ron DeSantis reported on Sunday afternoon that the Bertha Swamp Road fire now encompasses  9,000 acres. Firefighters, tractor plow units, Florida National Guard helicopters and additional resources continue to work to contain the blaze. 

To view a video of the governor’s press conference, visit the Star’s Facebook page.

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A third large wildfire emerged Sunday afternoon south of Tram Road and west of Star Avenue in Panama City early Sunday afternoon. 

At the press conference, officials announced that the fire was around 45 percent contained. About an hour later, the Florida Forest Service in Chipola announced that the fire was burning 163 acres.

The fire forced the evacuation of Clifford Chester Simms Veterans Nursing Home and other residences in the area.


Going into their third day of battling an 8,000 acre blaze that started in northwest Gulf County on Friday, the Florida Forest Service reported that hundreds of firefighters and 17 tractor plow units are working to contain the fire, with four Florida National Guard helicopters and additional resources en route.

After dry and windy conditions caused the fire to spread rapidly yesterday, the fire remained at 8,000 acres overnight, and containment remained at 10 percent. Officials say the fire has shown increased activity Sunday morning as wind speeds pick back up. Officials expect the wildfire to grow over the course of the day.

Forest Service firefighters and assisting  departments are working to establish containment lines in areas of highest concern.

Winds continue to blow the fire to the north and west between Highways 22 and 231, away from Gulf County and into Bay and Calhoun Counties.

All three counties are currently under a state-ordered state of emergency.

Officials say that the rain forecast for Tuesday through Friday should bring some relief, but downed trees and hurricane debris from Hurricane Michael are slowing firefighting efforts considerably.

Joe Zwierczhoski, a public information officer from the Florida Forest Service, told the Star yesterday that firefighters had been at a “stalemate” with the blaze for most of Saturday,  making advances at the same pace it was expanding. 

Bay County Emergency Management said Sunday morning that first responders from across the state had arrived overnight to help combat the Bertha Swamp Road fire and the Adkins Avenue fire, another large wildfire that has been forcing evacuations in Bay County for several days.

Both fires forced evacuations in various areas of Bay County Friday and Saturday, but no new evacuations have been ordered on Sunday at this time. See a map showing current evacuation zones below.

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There are no evacuations ordered in Gulf County at this time, according to Matt Herring from Gulf County Emergency Management.

The Adkins Avenue fire saw a five percent increase in containment overnight from 30 to 35 percent, according to the Florida Forest Service.

For a map of active wildfires, visit https://ffspublic.firesponse.com/.

Gulf and surrounding counties are under a burn ban until firther notice. Gulf County commissioners are scheduled to meet on the burn ban and other topics in a special meeting at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, March 7 at the county’s administration building next to the Gulf County Courthouse.

This report will be updated as more information becomes available.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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