Florida Forest Service Wildland Firefighters continue to monitor and ‘mop up' the aggressive wildfire that threatened several South Walton County homes as well as South Walton High School yesterday afternoon and into the evening.
The Florida Forest Service (formerly the Florida Division of Forestry) received the call around 2:00 p.m. yesterday, July 14th, that there was a woods fire on some vacant land immediately behind South Walton High School. Due to the sensitive nature of that area including several homes, a total of 4 Florida Forest Service tractor-plow units responded and plowed a fire line around the fire and was able to contain it at approximately 11 acres around 7 o'clock last night. Eleven acres is relatively small as far as wildfires are concerned but this fire was burning very intensely in very volatile vegetation, or ‘fuel', and had the potential to do millions of dollars worth of damage if it were not attacked so aggressively.
The fire is being called an "authorized escaped debris burn" and was being conducted by contractors doing some land clearing on some adjacent property. The incident is under investigation and there are no further details to be released until the investigation is complete.
There are smoke signs along the nearby highways including US Highway 331 as well as Chat Holley Road. Motorists are urged to use caution especially in these areas and anytime they encounter smoke on any roadway.
Besides the Florida Forest Service firefighters, structure firefighters from South Walton Fire District and Freeport Fire Department were also on scene assisting in the event that the fire reached any of the nearby homes, South Walton High School, and South Walton Baptist Church. Walton County Sheriff's Office personnel also assisted and the WCSO helicopter provided aerial surveillance. Due to the teamwork of all agencies involved, all of these structures including several outbuildings were all saved.
Florida Forest Service crews will be monitoring the fire—which is being named the J.D. Miller Road Fire—very closely for the next several days to make sure that the smoldering embers don't ‘spot' over the fire lines in the event of high winds.
Information provided by the Florida Forest Service