DeSantis issues state of emergency in Bay County; wildfires burn more than 1,400 acres, FEMA says

At least 8 homes engulfed, thousands more evacuated, governor says

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke in Panama City Saturday morning after declaring state of emergency Friday in Bay County due to wildfires that had burned an estimated 800 acres at the time and continued to threaten homes and critical infrastructure, according to news releases.

Around noon, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it authorized funds to reimburse up to 75% of what Florida will spend in fighting the wildfires, reporting that more than 1,400 acres of land had been burned and approximately 2,500 people were evacuated.

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The governor issued Executive Order 22-54 to declare a state of emergency in Bay County after the wildfires engulfed eight homes and led to the evacuation of thousands more, with weather conditions expected to maintain a moderate drought in the area for at least the next three days, according to the order.

“We are marshaling assets and we will provide whatever the folks here in Northwest Florida need,” DeSantis said. “After Hurricane Michael, you had a massive amount of this basically dry tinder that was left in its wake, and so these fires were something that people have been discussing for many years now, so this is not a surprise just given that that was sitting there and you have very low humidity and the winds and so it’s kind of been a perfect storm.”

DeSantis was joined by prominent state figures such as Florida Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie and others.

Patronis said at the news conference that anyone who has evacuated their residence should call their insurance company in case they need to file a claim later for fire damage to their home, vehicles or otherwise.

“Some carriers will want to go ahead and start that (pre-event claim) process with you. If you never use it, no big deal, it’ll just get passed on, but if you’re one of those houses that unfortunately was damaged by the fire, all this is going to do is going to speed up the claims process and we will hold your hand through that process. You can call 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236) in order to get any of your questions (answered) regarding insurance,” Patronis said.

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.