ROTONDA SANDS, Fla. (WWSB) - Firefighters from across the Suncoast worked through the night to put an end to a massive brush fire in Charlotte County that forced residents from their homes and scorched more than 200 acres.
The fire started around 11:30am Monday and in a short amount of time left 60 acres burned to the ground in the Rotonda Sands area of Charlotte County. Then it started moving and around 40 homes had to be evacuated.
“The fire was spreading pretty fast, conditions were just right, there was a high wind so the fire was moving through" said Todd Dunn, spokesperson for Charlotte County Fire & EMS. "There was a lot of fuel, the grass burned fast and as the fire got up into the trees then it would shoot embers across the road.”
This video shows the intensity of the fire, which is shooting flames high into the air and is loud with the crackling of tinder burning:
By 3pm, the fire had been 50 percent contained and dozens of units from several fire companies were actively fighting the flames. The large plume of smoke could be seen miles away.
Homeowner Jessica King was frightened that her home and her neighbor’s homes were going to be destroyed. “It is really crazy, it’s really sad" said King. "I’ve actually cried a couple of times today just seeing it.”
Multiple crews assisted Charlotte County in the fight, including departments from Palmetto, Estero Englewood, Boca Grande and North Port, as well as two engine strike teams from Lee County (made up of a supervisor and five engines), the sheriff’s office helicopter for air support, and two Florida Forestry helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, plus eight wildfire tractors.
Over the next four hours, the teams were able to bring the fire to 95 percent containment and a total of 222 acres had burned. Residents were able to return to their homes, 15 of which had been directly threatened but only a few of which suffered some heat damage, and FPL rushed to the area to restore power after poles went up in flames and lines were downed.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries, including one who had a small burn on the neck and another who injured a shoulder.
But the work was not over. Crews had to keep an eye on the fire overnight and had to extinguish at least three flareups.
Charlotte County Fire and EMS says the fire has been successfully contained, but they’ll be keeping an eye on it, just in case.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.