Forestry Service: 3,500-acre North Port fire about 60 percent contained

Update on North Port fire

NORTH PORT, Fla. --  A portion of I-75 in south Sarasota County that was closed over the weekend because of a large brush fire burning has been reopened.

On Monday morning, the Florida Forestry Service said there is still light smoke from the 3,500-acre fire burning there.  

The fire is about 60 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, according to Florida Forestry Service spokesperson Patrick Mahoney.

Crews from South Carolina have also helped contain the fires.

Officials warn that even when the fire is contained, smoke will be a problem for several weeks, causing visibility problems and difficulty for those with breathing problems.

Only one home was in danger Saturday, and officials hope to keep the blaze away from other residences. There are no evacuations.

The highway closure is from mile marker 170 (Kings Highway) to 179 (Toledo Blade Boulevard). The fire is near the area of Yorkshire/ Raintree loop on the east end of town.

The fire jumped the highway and is moving north. As it burned with a vengeance, Bill Leewald watched it all unfold.

“It was less than a quarter acre in size but it was all the way to the tops of the pines. We thought it was a car fire or something,” says Leewald.

The wind, yet again, helping fuel the flames, forcing a part I-75 to shut down. The smoke made it unsafe for people to drive.

“It just blossomed and blew up. In less than 20 minutes it was probably 50 acres,” says Leewald.

Micalia Lindeman and her family anxiously watched as firefighters did everything to contain the fire.

“I'm a little scared. I'm worried about the safety of all of us out pets our home,” says Lindeman.

Wildfires becoming commonplace in Florida making fire departments stretched to the limit.

“We're asking other districts to help cover our other borders. We have asked Okeechobee to cover Hardee and Desoto. We've asked Lakeland district to cover Manatee county,” says Patrick M. Mahoney with the Florida Forest Service. 

Since Jan. 1, some 2,015 wildfires have burned more than 150,000 acres.

Forest Service comparing this dry season to Florida's Historic 1998 Wildfires.

“This is the worst I've seen it and I've never seen so many red flag days in this area than we have had this year. We've had more fire in Manatee county than we've had in years,” says Mahoney.

These flames made it hard for crews to contain, putting them in danger.

“There has been a couple of times that our guys had to bail out of a fire thinking that they were ok and they look around and the fire is right on top of them, so they had to bail out,” says Mahoney.

While fire crews aren’t, sure what caused the fire, they do say cigarette butts are to blame for most of the recent wildfires in Florida. Lawnmowers, Hay bells and even burning cars are all contributing factors to the fires.

“Anything that produces heat. Be extremely cautious,” says Mahoney.

That warning as firefighters will have to spend their Mother’s day weekend battling flames.
 

 


Agencies working in the area include Collier County Sheriff's Office, Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, Florida Highway Patrol, North Port Police Department, North Port Fire Department, and Collier County Fire Rescue.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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