Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is deploying mental health professionals and additional relief to support fire teams working to put out dangerous wildfires across the Florida Panhandle.
The CFO announced today the deployment of two mental health professionals from Indian River County Fire Rescue and Iona-McGregor Fire District to ensure the mental health needs of firefighters. Patronis, who doubles as the State Fire Marshal, added that the two mental health professionals deployed on Monday will join the mental health professional who was deployed on Saturday from the Tallahassee Mental Wellness team.
“Firefighters are currently battling wildfires on a number of fronts and the members of our fire service community are giving everything they have to put them out. These fires are being fueled by the remnants of Hurricane Michael – and unfortunately – the humidity has been low, and the wind gusts have continued to play a factor. Governor DeSantis, the Division of Emergency Management, and Florida Forestry have been engaged and are working hard to get the equipment and manpower that’s needed to defend these communities, Patronis said on Monday.
Patronis noted that additional relief was also deployed to help battle the dangerous fires. The CFO said that Fire Engine Strike Teams composed of 22 personnel each, have been deployed to the Adkins Avenue Fire, staging at Harders Park, with additional units being deployed to Bear Creek Baptist Church.
Additionally, the State Fire Marshal’s office also deployed a cache of 30 handheld radios from Ocean City Wright Fire Control District to support Bay County Emergency Services, three drone strike teams to identify hot spots, and medics to provide medical response to first responders and residents.
“In addition to deploying mental wellness professionals, my office has helped coordinate the deployment of four separate Fire Engine Strike Teams from all across the state to the Panhandle, so that the men and women who are currently fighting these fires are getting more support and relief. Currently additional brush firefighting resources are responding from the Panhandle as teams are assembling across the state. We continue to ask area residents to pay attention to instructions from their local officials. The reality is until Mother Nature helps us out, we may keep seeing more instances of fire threatening Panhandle communities.
The fire originated in Gulf County over the weekend and has spread into neighboring Bay and Calhoun counties, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
At the time of this article, the series of wildfires has resulted in nearly 1,100 homes evacuated. Reports show that the Adkins Avenue Fire composed of 875 acres is 40 percent contained; Bertha Swamp 13,000-acre fire is 10 percent contained and the Star Avenue 275-acre fire is 45 percent contained.
“The fire has shown extreme activity for two days as steady winds pushed the fire through thick, dry, and dead trees and vegetation left behind from Hurricane Michael,” the forest service told CNN in an update Monday.
Governor Ron DeSantis originally issued a state of emergency in Bay County on Friday, and expanded it to include all three counties on Saturday.
“Our first responders willingly go into traumatic situations and exposure to these events can cause a tremendous impact on these heroes for years to come. I am incredibly thankful to the mental wellness professionals who will provide invaluable support to these brave men and women. We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to our first responders who are working around the clock to put out these wildfires and for their service to selflessly go into danger for others.” Patronis added.
Incredible work by @FLGuard aerial assets bringing in another large water dump to combat fires near Bear Creek. pic.twitter.com/WbYdUFLU39
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) March 7, 2022