Brush fires cause local residents concern

Local residents worry about brush fires in Pasco

Monday night, fire crews are getting on top of two brush fires burning in Pasco County near State Road 52.  Voluntary evacuations have now been called off for neighbors.

The Florida Fire Service says the 25-acre fire near Suncoast Lakes Subdivision is 25 percent contained.  It crept within 200-300 yards from homes.

The larger 73-acre fire in the Starkey Wilderness Preserve is 50 percent contained.

Crews have been working to stop the fire from spreading any closer to homes, and they aren't going anywhere overnight in case flames flare up.

It’s been a nerve-racking night for neighbors in Land O’ Lakes.  They’ve been scrambling to protect their homes while watching and worrying.

“It's scary, really scary. I’ve really never seen anything like this before,” says Suncoast Lakes neighbor Lori Kelly.

She’s is doing everything she can to make her dry grass and brush bordering the backyard less of a fire danger.

“I’ve been spraying the backyard, spraying that brush, too,” says Kelly.

As embers fell from the brush fire in the marshy area behind Kelly, flames crept closer.  “We’re even spraying the roof of our house just trying to keep it wet,” Kelly says. 

The family's ready to evacuate if they have to.  “I've got our stuff packed in the car, so we can just go,” says Kelly.

“Turn on my sprinklers, turn on the news, and started watching what we need to watch of course,” says neighbor Gary Franklin.

“This is the driest we've been in a while, so it really behooves everybody to, just like you get a hurricane kit, you need to have a go kit,” says Judith Tear, Florida Forest Service spokesperson.

Crews say fighting the two brush fires have been a challenge.

The wind is spreading the flames and the smoke, which makes breathing tough for neighbors.  The smoke could also cause problems on the road for the Tuesday morning commute.

Bugs, snakes, and walking through the marshy area's been dangerous for firefighters and equipment is getting stuck

“None of us want to see any injuries to our staff.  We do not want to see any injuries to those people in those neighborhoods, and we do not want to lose any homes,” says Tear.

“If the fire was to approach some of these houses, they should be able to get a handle on it relatively easy in the backyard of the homes,” says John DeWolfe, Florida Forest Service Incident Commander.

It's little comfort to neighbors like Kelly, who will be sleeping with one eye open.  “Oh, it’s going to keep me up, until they contain it, that’s for sure.  I'm not going go to sleep with fire like that,” says Kelly.

Firefighters suspect lightning is to blame for the two fires, but are still investigating.

In case neighbors have to evacuate overnight, the county says they'll get a phone call through the notification system.

Tuesday morning, firefighters plan to bring in more equipment and may run hoses to contain the fire.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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