Bay County Wildfires

By: Rayne McKenzie
By: Rayne McKenzie

Authorities believe a fire that's charred more than 150 acres of woodland started when a pine cone started burning by a resident in his backyard.

The fire broke out Sunday around noon. Fire and forestry crews arrived on the scene in about 20 minutes, but because of the dry climate and wind, the fire spread quickly and still is not fully contained.

"I could have lost myself and my kids, and if it weren't for the fire department, but I'm still here," said Fountain City resident Tabatha Downing.

This is how close a wildfire in Bay County came to burning down Tabatha's home.

Wildfires in Florida are common this time of year, and officials are well trained to deal with this size fire. However, firefighters still find new obstacles during each fire.

Fire Services Lt. Bay Co. Billy Writch said, "A fire can compound you so quickly and we have to pay attention but we're trying to protect structures and you don't have time to think."

Bay County officials are taking steps to protect residents in Bay County from future wildfires.

"We hope raising fire level to a four, and implementing burn band will stop some of the wildfires," said Corey Wilson, Bay Co. Forestry Supervisor.

In Florida there is no law requiring burn permits, however there are strict laws about how large the clearing has to be in order to burn and the man charged with starting this wild fire did not adhere to those guidelines.

The man charged with starting this wildfire faces suppression and damages costs.

Officials estimate the cost to be about $50,000 and officials hope these costs will make others think twice before burning illegally.

Bay County authorities will issue a "no burn” order, because of the hot, dry conditions and lack of rain.

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