Residents return to community devastated by fire

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Santa Rosa County, Fla. (WALA)– Crews are working day and night to control two wildfires burning in Santa Rosa County.

The devastating Five Mile Swamp fire has destroyed at least 14 homes and continues to threaten entire neighborhoods.

The massive fire has swallowed 2153 acres and is at 50% containment as of Friday evening.

The Hurst Hammock Fire nearby has grown to 1405 acres and is also at 50% containment. 

The wind and dry air are big hurdles firefighters face. 

Rain on Friday evening is expected to help, but it won’t put the fires out completely. 

Residents who were forced to evacuate were allowed back Friday afternoon, hoping to find their homes spared from the flames. 

Firefighters continue working to widen and create containment lines anywhere from 30 to 40 feet, north of i-10.

They are removing as much vegetation as possible to reduce the fire’s fuel.

They’re also attacking the fire using helicopters dumping 60 buckets of water.

They hope higher humidity and less wind will help them finally win their fight, but they’re not sure how long that could take. 

“If we didn’t go in there and improve the lines and everything then yes it could, with the wind and the dryness and everything, it could get back up,” said one firefighter.

Even for them, witnessing such an intense blaze spread, was nerve wracking for some.

“There was homes everywhere, everybody in danger, just honestly trying to get the fire put out, but like I said, with the weather conditions and everything going on it was pretty difficult,” said Austin Branch, a firefighter with the Florida Forest Service.

Todd Schroeder with the Florida Forest Service says burned tree tops are signs flames reached anywhere from 80 to 100 feet high.

“And you can only imagine what it must have looked like, you know, during Tuesday’s event to be on top of this trash heap and looking out over across the fire” Schroeder said.

Residents returning home are warned to be prepared to leave at any moment. 

Schroeder says the Five Mile Swamp Fire started after a prescribed burn by a private contractor escaped onto public land.  

Thankfully no firefighters or residents have been hurt. 

Many families have put up GoFundMe’s and the county has also started a fund to help affected families.

Links are below:

https://www.santarosa.fl.gov/353/SAFER

My Family Lost Everything To The FL 5 MileFire:https://www.gofundme.com/f/my-family-lost-everything-to-the-fl-5-mile-fire

Help Tim and Marcela Nagler Recover:https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-tim-and-marcela-nagler-recover

Ryan and Lundy Carroll: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ryan-and-lundy-carroll

Wildes Family House Fire: https://www.gofundme.com/f/2014xqzwio

Helping Kayleigh rise from the ashes: https://www.gofundme.com/f/helping-kayleigh-rise-from-the-ashes

The Scarbrough Family: https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-scarborough-family

Amy Bakers house fire: https://www.gofundme.com/f/amy-bakers-house-fire

Emergency Fundraiser for my Grandparents: https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-five-mile-swamp-fire

Amy and Jeff Home loss due to Santa Rosa fires: https://www.gofundme.com/f/amy-and-jeff-home-loss-due-to-santa-rosa-fires