It was a planned “controlled burn” – a fire deliberately started as a means to manage forest growth and avert future wildfires – but it ended up burning down 36 homes across 800 in acres in Eastpoint, Fla., last month.
Following an investigation, Florida’s agriculture commissioner has pointed to a local contracting company hired by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) Commission to carry out the prescribed burn, which was intended only to incinerate 480 acres of land.
The company, Wildland Fire Services, Inc., reportedly commenced the burn on June 18, but within a week the flames had spread to the Florida Panhandle town, where it took two more days to be extinguished.
FWC has since “suspended” the controlled burn program statewide.
Meanwhile, residents are still scouring through the remains of the few belongings left among the singed debris that they once called home, searching for their pets who disappeared during the inferno, and recalling how they had just “minutes to flee” as the blaze encroached on their backyards.
“My heart goes out to those affected by this devastating wildfire,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam stated. “And I thank all of our partners in the response effort to stop the spread of the fire.”