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Environment

Illegal Burn Barrel Sparked Florida Panhandle Wildfire That Destroyed Homes, Officials Say

Smoke from wildfire across highway
FLORIDA FOREST SERVICE
Officials say a Florida Panhandle man who set up an illegal burn barrel on his property caused a wildfire that torched approximately 343 acres of wild lands and damaged or destroyed about 59 homes.

Officials say a Florida Panhandle man who set up an illegal burn barrel on his property caused a wildfire that torched approximately 343 acres (139 hectares) of wild lands and damaged or destroyed about 59 homes.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says 58-year-old Allen Smith was arrested Tuesday and charged with three misdemeanor counts.

Investigators say Smith had been burning prohibited materials in a barrel behind his Santa Rosa Beach home on May 5 and didn’t fully extinguish the illegal fire before leaving it unattended.

The remaining hot materials escaped into the surrounding dry vegetation and caused it to ignite.