As Pasco fires rage on, family grateful to still have home

Pasco family victim of brush fires

Firefighters in Pasco County continue to watch four separate brush fires.

Two new fires ignited Wednesday, one coming dangerously close to homes in Hudson.

The Florida Forest Service says the 18-acre fire off New York Avenue and Old Dixie Highway is contained, but crews expect it’ll smolder for days, and they’ll be watching for hot spots.

The Shields family tells 10News that they’re so grateful for crews’ quick action. They had about $100,000 in property torched, but are thankful they still have a home and their lives.

“My backyard was on fire,” says Linda Shields. 

 

It’s the call no one wants, but Shields got Wednesday afternoon: a brush fire was burning up vehicles, a boat, and the workshop behind their home.  Then, she really panicked thinking of her 15-year-old son.

“My son is home from school, and the dogs, and everything started hitting me that I needed to get them out of the house,” says Shields.

Firefighters brought in equipment -- some that was on standby and some from the three nearby fires they've been battling off State Road 52 -- to stop the flames before they ignited the Shields’ home.

“It could happen anywhere, but it's amazing how people (firefighters) risk their lives," says husband Danny Shields. "As far as I'm concerned it's just metal, and they go back there and risk their lives to do that. I can't say it enough - thanks to them."

In Suncoast Lake, off the Suncoast Parkway just south of State Road 52, flames came within a couple hundred yards from homes. Wednesday, crews had to shut down Silver Palm Boulevard to neighbors for part of the day.

Firefighters confirm lighting sparked that brush fire and the one in nearby Starkey Wildlife Preserve on Monday.

Wednesday, a new fire forced an evacuation of the park.  One person had to be checked out by paramedics, after possibly getting caught up in the fire.

There are four fires in Pasco County and more than 100 across the state. Fire crews fear this year will be worse than the 1998 fires, because they are starting earlier in the year.

“We're going into a dry season.  It’s probably looking like mid-June before we're starting to see any significant relief from this, so we're prepared,” says Mike Penn, Withlacoochee Forestry Center operations manager for the Florida Forest Service.

The Shields will rest easy, because of firefighters’ preparation.

“We had a lot of people praying for us today that we'd have a home to come home to,” says Linda Shields.

Firefighters and the forest service say we can all do our part to protect our homes by making it “Firewise”.  They suggest having a safety zone around the home. Trim back vines, shrubs and overhanging branches, and instead of flammable mulch - use stone.


 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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