Chipola Complex Fires: Evacuation order lifted in Florida Panhandle

Bertha Swamp Fire consumes 33,047 acres

After a week-long firefight, the Bertha Swamp Fire remains minimally contained and has consumed more than 33,000 acres in the Florida Panhandle.

Bertha is part of the Chipola Complex Fire, comprised of several large fires sparked nearby and have been fueled primarily from debris leftover from Hurricane Michael in 2018.

The Bertha Fire has grown to 33,047 acres and is 10% contained as of Wednesday morning. The Adkins Road Fire is 875 acres, and the Star Avenue fire is down to 107 acres. Both of the smaller wildfires are 80% contained. 

Gusty winds caused erratic fire behavior on Tuesday, forcing additional evacuations. Rain moved into the Panhandle on Wednesday, but how much help the moisture will provide remains to be seen, according to officials on the ground.

Bay County Sheriff T. Ford said the evacuation orders were lifted for communities within Bear Creek. Residents were allowed to return home Wednesday morning.

While the rain was a welcome sight, the same system also brought severe weather and a possible tornado to Bay County, where firefighters have been battling multiple blazes for over a week.


The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch around 1 a.m. until 8 a.m. CT for the Panhandle, including Crestview, Pensacola and Panama City.

According to the sheriff's office, a possible tornado damaged the Bay County Sheriff's Office substation in Callaway and the connected fire station. 

A nearby mobile home park was also damaged, but no injuries had been reported. 

According to the NWS in Tallahassee, rainfall rates will increase through Thursday, with 3 to 6 inches possible.