State: Controlled burn sparked fire that destroyed 36 homes

Published: Jun. 27, 2018 at 10:20 AM EDT
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EASTPOINT, Fla. (AP) — Florida's agriculture commissioner says a controlled burn by state contractors sparked a wildfire that destroyed 36 homes and burned more than 800 acres (320 hectares) and officials have suspended the practice statewide.

Adam Putnam made the announcement Wednesday morning after an investigation by the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement.

The fire broke out late Sunday in the coastal community of Eastpoint near the historic town of Apalachicola in Florida's Panhandle.

Putnam says his "heart goes out to those affected by this devastating wildfire."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a statement that a private company was contracted to burn 480 acres (194 hectares) on June 18. The agency said 580 acres (235 hectares) of private land separated the controlled burn from the Eastpoint neighborhood.

Controlled burns are used as a forest management tool.