North Port, Florida -- A massive brush fire shut down and then slowed part of I-75 southbound near North Port and caused a voluntary neighborhood evacuation for a three block zone in the city.
North Port Fire officials say the 25-acre fire threatened 100 homes in the area between mile markers 179 and 182 on I-75.
City of North Port Fire MarshalMichael Frantzdrove 10 News into the scene Sunday.
"We had, at one point in time, over 20 fire trucks working this thing. It's almost eerie -- so much fire," he said.
Frantz said flames reached the top of some trees.
Officials say residents can protect themselves in cases like this by creating a defensible space around their homes. Get dried leaves off roof and gutters. If you have trees encroaching, try to have 25 feet from the vacant lot next to you and your house. Also, trim back overhanging limbs.
Residents are thankful no one was hurt and no homes were destroyed. Most of the damage was to garbage cans and other debris.
"It was pretty close, right there. [I] was trying to get the kids out. They grabbed their most important things -- stuffed animals, blankets. I am very grateful," said one resident.
Authorities are still figuring out what caused the fire, but they say two things happened Sunday -- the wind was a factor and the vegetation fueled this fire. They say palm trees go up in flames fast.
This is just the start of the brush fire season. We have several months to go.
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