Bertha Swamp Road Fire doubles in size to 28,000 acres east of Panama City

The fire doubled in size in 24 hours

9:35 p.m. ET, March 8, 2022

Bertha Swamp Road Fire map
Map of the Bertha Swamp Road Fire, March 8, 2022.

A large wildland fire about 10 miles east of Panama City, Florida has grown substantially in the last couple of days, doubling in size to about 28,000 acres according to the Florida Forest Service (FFS).

On Tuesday afternoon the rapid fire behavior prompted evacuations in the Broad Branch community near Kinard in Calhoun County.

While the weather forecast in the coming days calls for the possibility of rain, it will not be enough, the FFS said, to decrease the wildfire threat any time soon – especially in the Hurricane Michael-impact area.

Bertha Road Fire
Multiple pieces of heavy equipment battle the Bertha Swamp Road Fire. FFS photo.

The fire is part of the Chipola Complex of three fires east of Panama City. The other two are the Adkins Avenue Fire and the Star Avenue Fire. Both of those are nearing containment the agency said. Evacuation orders associated with these two wildfires have been lifted.

The FFS Blue Incident Management Team has assumed command of the Chipola Complex.

Florida Forest Service wildland firefighters and resources from countless other fire and emergency service departments are working around the clock to suppress the wildfires and protect communities. “We are truly grateful for all partners and their support in this fight. We will not back down,” the FFS said in a statement Tuesday evening.

The blazes are fueled by thick, dry vegeation and dead trees left behind after Hurricane Michael in 2018.

On Monday the resources working on the fire included more than 70 tractor-plow units and 10 air assets, including 2 FFS helicopters, 2 FFS fixed-wing aircraft, 2 Florida National Guard Black Hawk helicopters, 2 Florida National Guard Guard Chinook helicopters, and 2 Southeastern Compact single-engine air tankers (SEATS).

Dozers on the Bertha Swamp Road Fire, Florida, March 7, 2022
Dozers on the Bertha Swamp Road Fire, Florida, March 7, 2022. FFS photo.

Additionally, a strike team of heavy bulldozers is focusing on building firelines and defensible space around the communities near Bear Creek. The dozers are better equipped to move large volumes of debris and to establish wider firelines than typical initial attack tractor-plow units.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.