It's springtime, and swamps are burning in the Florida Panhandle. Authorities said Wednesday night that the Five Mile Swamp Fire in Santa Rosa County had burned more than 2,000 acres and was only 20% contained, the Pensacola News Journal reports. Authorities said the fire began when a contractor lost control of a prescribed burn on private property. Florida Forest Service officials say wildfires have forced more than 500 people to evacuate, destroyed at least 18 homes, and shut down 9 miles of Interstate 10, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
"This is an extremely dangerous and fast-moving wildfire situation that is evolving rapidly, so everyone in the affected area should follow directions from state and local officials," said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, per the AP. Amid unusually dry conditions, several other fires are burning in the region, including a 575-acre fire in Walton County that was 65% contained as of Thursday morning. National Weather Service meteorologist Jack Cullen says a cold front that caused extremely low humidity, combined with strong winds, is promoting "fire growth and spread." He says the humidity is expected to remain low, with little rainfall, but the winds are expected to lighten Thursday. (Read more Florida stories.)