East Orange Co. Brush Fire Forces Evacuations

East Orange Co. Brush Fire Forces Evacuations

19 April 2009

published by www.wesh.com

USA — Residents were evacuated to a middle school in Bithlo as a two-alarm 35-acre brush fire threatened their homes on Sunday

Firefighters had the flames under control, but by 2 p.m., the fire had consumed more than 225 acres.

Firefighters were standing by homes Sunday night while the Division of Forestry did its best to keep the fire at a distance.

Residents couldn’t see the flames, but the black smoke swirling behind their homes was enough to have them packing.

“I got my camper loaded up, all my stuff in the camper waiting to see what happens,” resident James O’Brian said.

Some filled the back of their trucks with belongings. Curtis Childs grabbed everything that would fit into his car.

“Clothes, pictures from family, dog,” Childs said.

Down affected streets yellow tape can be seen on mailboxes so firefighters know from which homes they have been asking people to evacuate. But some people are choosing to stay.

“My wife, daughter packed up and gone,” James Lopez said. I’m going to stay here until flames come up on the other side of that fence line.”

“It was scary when they are telling you to leave,” Joe Fika said. “You can’t leave your home.”

The fire has been burning since Saturday night, when 20 homes were evacuated. By Sunday afternoon, that number jumped to 80 homes evacuated — affecting 200 people.

The American Red Cross is helping families at Corner Lake Middle School, which has been turned into a temporary shelter.

The smoke can be seen for miles and caught drivers’ eyes as they headed right toward it.

The Division of Forestry’s plane circled the fire to give crews on the ground a plan of attack. The strong winds were a major concern, officials said.

“Those embers that are still burning and going up in the smoke and you can sometimes, catch them, they land down here and start a fire,” said Thomas Rullo, of Orange County Fire Rescue.

Those embers have not landed on any homes.

Officials said Sunday night that they will stay at the command post at the scene for several more hours to make sure the fire stays under control.

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