Crews work to put out Panhandle fire

Published April 8, 2007

APALACHICOLA - A fire that scorched about 1,000 acres west of the Apalachicola airport continued to burn Saturday as crews worked to extinguish remaining hot spots, officials said.

Butch Baker, the emergency management director for Franklin County, estimated that about six families voluntarily evacuated the rural area. He said an inmate work camp also evacuated. Crews began battling the blaze Friday.

"The majority of the fires have been put out," said Mike Rundel, the emergency management coordinator for Franklin County. "There are still some hot spots and small fires."

A 15-mile stretch of U.S. 98 between Port St. Joe and Apalachicola that shut down Friday afternoon because of the fire remained closed Saturday.

On Saturday, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the area. The warning means that the threat for fires was critical, and the Florida Division of Forestry suspended all burn authorizations in the state.

Authorities did not know how the fire started, but Baker said it might be part of a previous controlled burn in the area.

"A little hot spot from a former fire just plopped back up to the surface," he said.