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1,600 evacuated as crews battle Florida wildfires

Firefighters said that ‘multiple structures’ were lost in the fire.

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Flames and smoke rise from trees alongside a road in Santa Rosa County (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services via AP)

Flames and smoke rise from trees alongside a road in Santa Rosa County (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services via AP)

Flames and smoke rise from trees alongside a road in Santa Rosa County (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services via AP)

Firefighters in the Florida Panhandle have been battling wildfires that forced around 1,600 people to leave their homes.

This is an extremely dangerous and fast-moving wildfire situation that is evolving rapidly, so everyone in the affected area should follow directions from state and local officials,” said Florida agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried.

“All residents and travellers should heed evacuation requests and closely monitor the media for updates on the wildfire and reopening of I-10 (Interstate 10) and local roads.”

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A sheriff’s vehicle travels along US Highway 98 in Walton County as wildfires burn nearby (Devon Ravine/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

A sheriff’s vehicle travels along US Highway 98 in Walton County as wildfires burn nearby (Devon Ravine/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

AP/PA Images

A sheriff’s vehicle travels along US Highway 98 in Walton County as wildfires burn nearby (Devon Ravine/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

A 575-acre fire in Walton County prompted about 500 people to evacuate. Authorities said multiple structures were lost in the fire, which was 65% contained on Thursday morning. Ms Fried said about 33 structures have been damaged so far.

Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson said during a Wednesday night news conference that those who were asked to leave their home but had no place to go were sent to South Walton High School.

On Wednesday, some 1,100 people were asked to evacuate in neighbouring Santa Rosa County due to a wildfire that broke out on Monday afternoon. Ms Fried said about 12 structures “have been lost to the fire”.

High winds and low humidity caused that blaze, east of Pensacola, to expand 10 times in size, the Florida Forest Service said. The fire started as a prescribed burn but quickly grew out of control, news outlets reported.

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Fire chiefs discuss the emergency in Walton County (Walton County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Fire chiefs discuss the emergency in Walton County (Walton County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

AP/PA Images

Fire chiefs discuss the emergency in Walton County (Walton County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

The evacuation order will remain in effect until noon on Thursday and then will be reevaluated, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said.

Almost all of Florida has had less-than-usual rainfall this year. National Weather Service meteorologist Jack Cullen told The Times the dryness helped fuel the fires on Wednesday. Mr Cullen, who is based in Mobile, Alabama, said the wind is the real culprit.

“What made this (fire) today was the wind, to go along with the dry conditions and low humidity,” Mr Cullen said of the fire near Pensacola.

There have been no reports of injuries or deaths.

PA