FL, USA — Raging bushfires destroyed more than 50 homes on Florida’s Atlantic coast and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents as a state of emergency was declared.
The worst-hit area was Palm Bay in Brevard County, where flames raced across 1400 hectares, burning down 50 properties.
Town spokeswoman Yvonne Martinez said: “Every time I turn around, another house is on fire. We don’t have enough resources on our own to do a job like this.”
In nearby Malabar, a 1200-hectare blaze destroyed at least two homes.
The Florida Highway Patrol shut an 11km stretch of Interstate 95 in Brevard County in the rush hour. US Highway 1 also was closed.
FHP spokeswoman Kim Miller said: “The fires have picked up, so it’s just heavy, thick black smoke and it’s right at driver level.”
One person may be responsible for the blaze, said Ernie Dieble, an arson investigator with the Palm Bay Police Department.
A witness saw someone in a car drop something into an open field, and the fire started shortly afterward, he reported.
To the north, in Daytona Beach, about 320 hectares had burned, said Division of Forestry spokesman Timber Weller.
Governor Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency, which allows Florida to use federal funds and the National Guard, brings local emergency workers under state control, and allows Florida to call on other states for help.