Rainfall eases wildfire threat, but officials urge caution

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— While rainfall has improved conditions across much of the Florida Panhandle, state officials said Thursday that the volume of dead trees and vegetation left by a Category 5 hurricane in 2018 remains a threat for additional wildfires.

Without additional significant rainfall, the debris left on the ground by Hurricane Michael will quickly dry out and serve as fuel for wildfires, the Florida Forest Service said in a news release.

In the meantime, firefighters are continuing to improve containment lines on the Chipola Complex fire and monitor any new activity.

The rain was a break from days of dry, windy conditions that had fueled three wildfires in and around Bay County, Florida.

Over the weekend, residents were evacuated from 1,100 houses in Bay County, but more than half were allowed to return home Monday. So far, only two homes have been destroyed and another dozen damaged, with the destruction occurring last Friday.

The fire that caused that damage, the 875-acre (355-hectare) Adkins Avenue Fire, was 85% contained, fire officials said Thursday.

Hurricane Michahel left behind 72 million tons (65 million metric tons) of destroyed trees that have provided fuel for the fire. The hurricane was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in the U.S.