‘We feel so helpless’: Officials face daunting task fighting Bertha Swamp Road fire

As dusk arrived on the fourth day of fighting the Bertha Swamp Road Fire, plows remained hard at work in Calhoun County.
Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 11:24 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2022 at 9:48 AM EST
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CALHOUN COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) - As dusk arrived on the fourth day of fighting the Bertha Swamp Road Fire, plows remained hard at work in Calhoun County.

Crews couldn’t waste a second. Clearing lines to attempt to slow the massive fire’s spread remained a top priority.

As of Tuesday evening, the fire remained at over 28,000 acres and was just 10% contained, according to the Florida Forest Service.

Kinard is a small town just a few miles east of where the fire was Tuesday evening. Fire Chief Jody Daniels is keeping a close eye on every update.

“It’s giving them a fit,” he said, admitting it’s been tough to make progress against the rapidly expanding blaze.

“Things are still kind of getting interesting from time to time, the winds picking up, the fire is making some runs,” he said.

Officials kept a close eye on the map all afternoon. According to Daniels, the fire would cause even more havoc if it jumped County Road 12 and headed east.

“We get into a neighborhood pretty quick and there’s a lot of heavy fuel there,” he said. “That’s something we’re really trying to avoid.”

An air attack provided hope throughout the afternoon. Helicopters from both the state and federal government worked to make an impact, but Calhoun County Sheriff Glenn Kimbrel struggled to find a silver lining.

“We feel so helpless,” he said. “The more we do, we don’t get any reports back we’re making any difference. As this wears on, people begin to tire.”

Crews from all over the state arrived throughout the afternoon to boost the effort.

In Kinard, residents can’t help but anxiously watch the horizon.

“It’s really been pretty scary,” said Natalie Bailey, who lives just miles from the front lines. “We made it through a Category 5 hurricane which took down all the trees. I’ve never been this close to a fire like this.”

Officials reminded everyone in the area to keep a close eye on social media for any orders to evacuate. They asked everyone to have bags packed ahead of time, so they can leave the minute it’s deemed unsafe to stay.

Around 6:30 Wednesday morning, the Kinard Volunteer Fire Department said on Facebook it was raining in the area where they are staged.

“The fire is still located west of County Road 12 and South of Scott’s Ferry Road. Our strike teams are still in place and we will continue to provide updates as information becomes available,” the post said.

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