WASHINGTON, D.C. -- FEMA and Florida state officials began joint Preliminary Damage Assessments of wildfire damage yesterday in St. Lucie County, Fla. In addition, the seventh Fire Suppression Assistance Grant (FSA) in six days was approved for Florida yesterday for the Tallahassee Fire District.
The fire, burning in the Apalachicola National Forest, threatened 30 homes and 15 businesses in the town of Arran (Wakulla County), about 20 miles south-southwest of Tallahassee yesterday afternoon. Sporadic evacuations occurred and approximately 90 people were forced to leave their homes yesterday. As of this morning, the evacuees were allowed to return to their homes. This fire has so far consumed 600 acres and temporarily closed two major roadways, U.S. Highway 319 and County Road 267.
As of yesterday, approximately 2,515 fires have burned more than 131,000 acres across the state. The hot dry conditions continue across Florida with no rain forecast for the next seven to 10 days. Fires are currently burning in Bay, Brevard, Collier, Franklin, Highlands, Lake, Leon, Osceola, Polk and Wakulla counties. Damages stand at 59 structures destroyed and another 81 damaged.
The largest blaze continues in the Everglades, having burned more than 100,000 acres so far. There have been no evacuations in effect or shelters opened as of this morning. A power line had been threatened, but firefighters back burned an area around the power line to prevent the spread of the larger fire. Despite the heavy smoke and road closings, U.S. Forest Service officials report the Everglades fire may have some beneficial effects. The fire is clearing out dead grasses that could prevent an even more catastrophic blaze later this spring.
Florida officials report several states are providing mutual aid including helicopters from Georgia and Delaware along with other resources from Texas and Alabama.