USA — OCALA, Fla – Strong winds and very dry conditions helped fuel several brush fires that broke out in Central Florida over the weekend, leaving thousands of acres scorched and nearly a dozen homes destroyed.
Firefighters on Monday continue to battle a nearly 2,000-acre brush fire that destroyed 10 homes in Marion County and forced officials to close a roadway.
The fire started Saturday afternoon in the Ocala National Forest and quickly grew to 1,900 acres, fire officials said. The blaze was 80 percent contained as of Monday morning.
State Road 19 was closed near State Road 40 for hours because of the fast-moving fire that burned through more than 20 buildings. Officials reopened the roadway around 8 a.m. Monday.
No injuries were reported, but fire officials said 24 buildings, including the 10 houses, were destroyed by the blaze.
Jimmie Becraft lost his car and his boat as parts of his yard continue to burn.
“Grabbed a water hose and started spraying wherever I could,” Becraft said of fighting the fire.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Many of the people who live in the Sportman’s Haven area inside the Ocala National Forest stayed through evacuation orders to fight for each other’s homes.
Neighbors described the flames as towering into the sky and spitting basketball-sized fireballs. They say that’s why some houses are destroyed and others look untouched.
Walter Lunsford estimates he lost almost $30,000 when his tool shed burned to the ground, yet his home was spared.
“I’m very happy for what I do have because there’s friends and family that lost everything. They don’t have nothing,” said Lunsford.
His sister’s house no longer exists. It’s just a charred frame.
“Everything that she owned was in that house. It’s gone. There’s nothing saveable at all,” he said.
Firefighters were still working Monday to control to the fire that’s 80 percent contained. A spokesman for the Florida Forest Service said they’re in the mopping up stages, making sure smoldering areas don’t reignite.
The American Red Cross is assisting families displaced by the fire. For information about help call 407-894-4141.
Meanwhile, a brush fire scorched more than 1,100 acres in Volusia County, forcing the evacuation of dozens of homes.
The blaze, dubbed the Durrance Fire by officials, initially broke out on Friday in Ormond Beach. As of Monday morning, the fire was 85 percent contained, officials said.
Fire officials said flames came dangerously close to homes on Arabian, Lipizzan, Warden, Baha and Durrance trails, but none was burned.
The evacuation notice was lifted Sunday evening.
Fire crews from Volusia and Flagler counties, the Florida Forest Service, and every city fire department in Volusia County helped battle the blaze.
The cause of the Volusia fire also remains under investigation.
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