Busy week of wildfire activity in the South slowed by rain and snow

The Bertha Swamp Road Fire in Florida has burned more than 33,000 acres

Precipitation & wildfire activity, March 12, 2022 United States
Precipitation accumulated in the 72-hour period ending at 6 p.m. March 12, 2022. The black dots represent wildfires March 12, 2022.

After a week of very busy wildfire activity across the Southern Geographic Area, rain and snow have reduced, at least temporarily, the spread of most of the blazes.

The National Interagency Incident Management Situation Report is only issued once a week about six months of the year because there are fewer large fires in the 11 western states during the fall, winter, and spring. This is the National Interagency Coordination Center’s policy “unless significant activity occurs.”

For the 7-day period that ended Thursday night the weekly Sit Report issued Friday morning listed 60 wildfires in the Southern Area that were larger than 100 acres. Those fires covered portions of three pages. The largest was the Chipola Complex that totaled 34,203 acres (and prompted evacuations). Another 10 exceeded 1,000 acres.

In the Situation Report below, scroll down to see the 60 fires in the Southern Geographic Area.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://wildfiretoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Sit-Report-March-11-2022.pdf” title=”Sit Report March 11, 2022″]


Chipola Complex of fires

The map above shows precipitation that accumulated over the 72-hour period that ended Saturday March 12 at 6 a.m. CST. A weather station at Panama City just west of the Chipola Complex measured 0.76 inch of rain since March 9. That will be enough to slow the spread of the 33,131-acre Bertha Swamp Road Fire and help the Florida Forest Service (FFS) complete a fireline around it, but some of the heavy fuels left after the passage of Hurricane Michael could continue burning within the interior.

Bertha Swamp Road Fire, March 11, 2022
Bertha Swamp Road Fire, March 11, 2022. Florida Forest Service image.

The Blue Incident Management Team has started transitioning the incident back to the FFS Chipola Forestry Center.

The other two fires in the Complex are the Adkins Avenue (875 acres) and the Star Avenue (197 acres). There has not been much activity on those fires for several days.

The agency reports that Hurricane Michael destroyed 2.8 million acres of trees in the Panhandle and said much of the debris remains on the ground, and will be ready to burn after a few days of dry weather.

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.