Brush fire consumes 500 acres, some 'structures'
Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 8:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 8:55 p.m.
SALT SPRINGS -- Marion County Fire Rescue officials said residents of 15 to 20 homes were evacuated and that "structures were damaged, perhaps homes," Saturday afternoon as a brush fire consumed some 500 acres.
One resident said some homes in her Woodshaven neighborhood had burned, as had several out buildings. Officials said boats and cars were also damaged by the blaze.
Fire rescue spokeswoman Jessica Greene said the blaze, called the Hopkins Prairie Fire, began as a 50-acre fire, but by nightfall Saturday had grown to more than 500 acres, and could grow to 1,000 acres in scope. The only injury appears to be suffered by a firefighter cut a finger while helping move a resident's boat, Greene said.
People who live in an area stretching from Forest Road 54 to Forest Road 33, along Florida Highway 19, were asked to evacuate their homes. although officials said that some residents declined to evacuate and remained with their homes.
A shelter was opened for evacuees at Forest Assembly Church, officials said.
Helen Howard, who has lived in Woodshaven since the early 1980s, said her husband had called her at 6:20 p.m. and told her that the out buildings adjacent to their home had been destroyed by the fire.
Howard said she had been at home watching the fire as it skirted to the north. Then, she said, the fire appeared in their neighborhood, which has three roads with homes on them. Before leaving, she said she could hear the crackling sounds of homes burning.
"It's a sad, sad day," she said.
MCFR officials are assisting authorities from the U.S. Division of Forestry in fighting the fire. Crews from Putnam County are also helping. Marion County sheriff's deputies are out guiding traffic and helping people evacuate.
The winds throughout the day had been gusting, but by nightfall they had tapered off considerably.
At about 5 p.m., a MCSO deputy was posted at the intersection of State Road 40 and State Road 19, preventing traffic from turning north onto Highway 19.
Sheriff's officials said Highway 19 would remain closed to northbound and southbound traffic into Sunday morning. At some points along Highway 19, the fire had jumped the road and had traveled as far as Lake George.
Heading north on Highway 19, at Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area, hikers Jeff Thompson and Joyce Wilden, a couple from Melbourne, had just finished hiking The Yearling Trail when they saw smoke and went as close as they could -- within about three miles from the fire, they said.
By this time, the smoke, which had been all white, had turned to shades of black and in some spots red.
Off in the distance, a U.S. Forestry helicopter was carrying water to the fire area.
Roughly a mile from Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area were a host of MCFR officials and people staged by the side of the road.
Sally, who would not give her last name, said she lives by Highway 19 and Yellow Bluff and that she saw smoke and called 911 shortly after 2 p.m. At that time, she said the fire appeared to span about 40 to 50 acres.
Not long after calling 911, Sally said forestry officials told them it would be a good idea for them to evacuate.
Earlier in the day, city and county firefighters extinguished several brush fires in the area. There was a 10-acre brush fire in Ocklawaha that threatened no homes, officials said.
Another fire broke out just before 2:30 p.m. at 2256 NE 145th Ave. Road in the Ocala National Forest. At roughly the same time, MCFR Engine 2 handled a 1/4-acre fire at NE 39th Court and 175th Street Road in Citra.
A five-acre brush fire at 5850 SW College Road in the Winding Acres subdivision was called under control at 2:54 p.m. Additionally, at 4:22 p.m. a fire erupted from a barrel burn at 13449 SW 112th Place Road in Summerfield.
There was also a 10-acre brush fire by Southeast 36th Avenue and Maricamp Road.
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