LAKE PLACID, Fla.— Forestry crews managed to save 28 homes from a fast-moving fire that burned its way through the Leisure Lakes neighborhood in Highlands County Tuesday afternoon.
Video shot by area residents shows flames shooting into the air as fire crews first arrived.
One resident arrived home to find his home surrounded by flames. He raced in to rescue his dog still inside and left believing his home would be destroyed.
“I knew that we had lost everything when we left here,” the resident said. He was shocked to arrive home to find his home still standing.
“I’m forever grateful for [the firefighters]. It’s by them, and the grace of God I still have a house to live in.”
The fire did take out several sheds, two boats, a dock and several vehicles. And while street signs throughout the neighborhood have the letters melted off, amazingly only one home suffered minor exterior damage.
“The flames were running 20 miles an hour right toward the house,” said Bill Masters who had burned trees on all sides of his home. “If they hadn’t brought the helicopter over here they’d all be gone. There wouldn’t be anything left.”
The fire which grew to almost 69 acres is now 100 percent contained. Forestry crews consider the fire suspicious and will now turn the investigation over to Florida Department of Agriculture.
Anyone with information about how the fire started can contact the Florida Forest Service Office at 863-467-3221. If your tip leads to an arrest you could be eligible for a $5,000 reward.