WALTON COUNTY, Fla. – A Santa Rose Beach man is accused of starting a 343-acre wildfire in Walton County, according to the sheriff’s office.
Allen Smith is facing charges of reckless burning of lands, open burning requirements, and burning of illegal materials. Each charge is a misdemeanor.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office said they were able to determine Smith is accused of burning illegal prohibited materials in a burn barrel on his property on Mussett Bayou Drive on May 5.
Deputies said the investigation shows Smith is accused of not fully extinguishing the illegal fire completely before leaving the burn barrel unattended.
Investigators said the remaining hot materials inside the burn barrel escaped into the surrounding dry vegetation.
The Sheriff’s Office said the dry conditions and weather patterns observed on the day allowed for the fire to spread rapidly out of control.
Deputies said 343 acres of wildlands were damaged and destroyed.
More than 50 homes were destroyed and damaged in the area, according to deputies.