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Families Await Housing Aid 2 Weeks After Florida Wildfire

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Aaron1a12/Wikimedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Smoke from a Florida wildfire covers the sky.

More than 100 people have been waiting for temporary housing for almost two weeks since being displaced by a wildfire that burned through their tiny community in the Florida Panhandle.

In a Panama City News Herald report , Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said efforts to get 31 camper trailers for the families stalled amid bureaucratic red tape late last week.

"I'm beyond frustrated," Smith said. "This is another weekend with these people out in the heat. This is unacceptable."

Capital Area Community Action Agency CEO Tim Center said his agency would work with state and local officials to reimburse the county for trailers that can be moved onto individual home sites in Eastpoint.

"They will be provided free up to six months," Center said. "This is not a permanent solution. This is a temporary fix. What we want to provide is some sign of hope for those families that have been displaced."

The fast-moving wildfire started late June 24 and reportedly stemmed from a prescribed fire ordered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The blaze claimed the homes of 36 families and torched about 820 acres (330 hectares).

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis has sent adjusters to Eastpoint to help residents file a partial claim settlement for up to $5,000 per household to help with immediate needs. As of Friday, 16 of those claims had been paid.

Displaced residents have been relying on the generosity of others in the community for shelter and supplies. Many in the community have donated food, money and clothing.

"It's really tough," said Alexa Shannon, who lost the home she had shared with her five children. "There are no words for it, really ... horrible, devastating, heartbreaking. And it still smells out here like fire and destruction."

Dominick Rotella's house was spared from the flames due to a fire line cut into his front yard. He has been allowing neighbors who lost their homes to camp on his property and use his laundry facilities while they wait for more assistance.

"They haven't got these people no kind of help for a place to stay," Rotella said. "Some kind of support would just warm your heart up a little bit."


Information from: The (Panama City, Fla.) News Herald,