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Wildfire in South Walton Info & Updates - Arrest Made

May 11, 2020 by Kurt Lischka

Walton County Sheriff's Office is on scene of an outside woods fire with South Walton Fire and Florida Forestry. WCSO is currently in the process of evacuating houses and businesses along US Highway 98 and 30a W. Loral Lane and E Pinehurst Drive have been evacuated. Musset Bayou Road is closed at this time. WCSO has shut down portions of Highway 98 and 30A west of County Road 393.

Update 5/6/20 9PM

Multiple agencies are on scene in South Walton continuing to fight a 500+ acre wildland fire that has rapidly spread. Over 500 homes have been evacuated in the area. If you fall in the evacuation area, you will receive a phone call or a deputy will knock on your door and advise you to evacuate immediately. Residents should expect to smell smoke and possibly see flames throughout the night.

Multiple structures have burned but no injuries have been reported at this time. Those being evacuated can take shelter at South Walton High School. American Red Cross is responding to that location to assist those affected.

Westbound motorists need to avoid both Highway 98 and 30a to the west of Highway 331. Eastbound motorists need to avoid Highway 98 and 30a west of Mack Bayou Road.

Evacuation Zone

Update 5/7/20


Command center at Santa Rosa Beach Post Office - US Forestry and Niceville Firefighters helping out, along with other firefighters from the area. WCSO deputies and SWFD Lifeguards helping out also.


The brunt of the damage was south of US 98 along Thompson Road.


North side of 98 where fire originated, apparently from someone illegally burning yard trash.

Update 5/9/20

The Florida Foresty Service is reporting that the fire is now at 80% containment and 343 acres burned.

This means that the fire has a 80% chance of staying within the established fire breaks/lines.

SWFD crews along with our mutual aid partners will maintain a presence and continue to support the Florida Forestry Service until this incident is 100% mitigated.

Update 5/11/20

The Florida Forestry Service is reporting that the fire is now at 90% containment with 343 acres burned.

This means that the fire has a 90% chance of staying within the established fire breaks/lines.

SWFD crews along with our mutual aid partners will maintain a presence and continue to support the Florida Forestry Service until this incident is 100% mitigated.

South Walton residents, guests and visitors alike will most likely still see smoke and flames for several days. However, if you see those outside of these burned areas, we ask that you call 9-1-1.

SWFD would also like to ask everyone in our area to please watch out for crews that are still working.

Update 5/12/20

Arrest made in 343-acre Mussett Bayou wildfire in Walton County

Yesterday, investigators with the state’s Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE) obtained an arrest warrant for Allen Smith of Santa Rosa Beach for the Mussett Bayou wildfire in Walton County.

Allen Smith was subsequently located and arrested in reference to the active arrest warrant and was booked into the Walton County jail without incident. Bond was set at $5,000, according to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.

“Recklessly burning illegal materials puts lives, lands, and property at risk. When that occurs, it’s our responsibility to take swift action and bring perpetrators to justice, just as has happened here,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Our hearts are with everyone who lost homes in this tragic fire. We’re thankful for the diligence of our Agricultural Law Enforcement officers and investigators and our Florida Forest Service wildland firefighters, and for the partnership of Walton County Sheriff Adkinson and his team.”

Investigation: On the evening of May 5, 2020, OALE began an investigation into a wildfire that occurred earlier that day in the vicinity of Mussett Bayou Road in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida in Walton County.

The final estimated acreage indicates the fire burned approximately 343 acres of wildlands and damaged or destroyed approximately 59 homes in the area.

Upon arrival, OALE Investigators conducted an Origin and Cause investigation which led them to 480 Mussett Bayou Drive. Additionally, OALE Investigators conducted a neighborhood canvass and interviewed multiple witnesses related to the fire and associated property damage.

Results: Upon OALE Investigators completing their investigation into the Origin and Cause of the fire, they were able to determine that Allen Smith (58) of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida had been burning illegal/prohibited materials in a burn barrel at the rear of his property located at 480 Mussett Bayou Drive on May 5th, 2020.

The investigation further revealed that Smith did not fully extinguish the illegal fire completely before leaving the burn barrel unattended. The investigation determined the remaining hot materials inside the burn barrel escaped into the surrounding dry vegetation causing the vegetation to ignite. The dry vegetative conditions and weather patterns observed on this day allowed the fire to rapidly spread out of control causing extensive damage to wildlands and homes in the surrounding area.
Charges:
Florida State Statute 590.28 (2), Reckless burning of Lands for 1(one) count, a 2nd-degree misdemeanor.
Florida State Statute 403.161(1)(b), Open burning requirements for 1(one) count, a 1st-degree misdemeanor.
Florida State Statute 403.161 (1)(b), Burning of illegal materials, 1(one) count, a 1st-degree misdemeanor.

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As a happy ambassador of South Walton, Kurt loves to share SoWal with the world through stories, photos, videos, texting, social media, and even telephone.

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