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Brush fire burns 11 acres

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Apr 7, 2021

CHUCK BALLARO

news@breezenewspapers.com

A brush fire came too close for comfort for a residential community in North Fort Myers Wednesday evening.

The fire ignited near the Sabal Springs and Island Vista communities near the intersection of Business 41 and U.S. 41, and was totally contained by nightfall, but not before it burned 11 acres and came dangerously close to homes in Island Vista.

No property damage was reported. The fire is believed to have been caused by a campfire started in a homeless encampment.

“We concluded that the origin went to the vagrant camp and there was a fire area that was still smoking, not a fire pit per se, and it didn’t have the proper 30 feet from trees,” said Kristi Kulwicki, spokesperson for North Fort Myers Fire and Rescue. “We can assume they were cooking.”

In what has been a drier-than-normal year so far, Kulwicki said the ground is tinder dry, and it doesn’t take much for a fire to result, with 80 percent caused by human error. The rest are caused by lightning, which can be ruled out.

Kulwicki said it’s humans being silly or negligent that causes these types of fires. An example would be people throwing cigarette butts outside while driving.

“It doesn’t take a lot of wind to blow embers to a very dry area like evergreens, which are super flammable, and it starts very quickly,” Kulwicki said. “It spreads like wildfire, thus the name, and it escalates.”

Brushfire Prevention Month starts in May, Kulwicki said. But here in Southwest Florida, it tends to start much earlier, and even though we are in the middle of a drought, there are no burn bans yet.

“Every year we end up with a burn ban, but we’re not quite there yet. We can see the future and this is our first big brush fire,” Kulwicki said. “We are so fortunate not to have had structural damage. People have to be more careful.”

Kulwicki said all it takes to start a fire is for someone to park their car in the yard and leave it running for a short period to start a fire, with the wind pulling it in every direction.

“People idle in their yard and turn on the air conditioning and the grass is so dry and hot that, when they left, they created a brush fire under the car by the heat and the combustible grass,” Kulwicki said. “The next thing they know, they have fire and brush trucks on their property.”

Kulwicki tells people they need to be careful outside during this time of year.

“People need to have good judgement. If they’re going to have a fire, keep it away from homes at least 30 feet or vegetation,” Kulwicki said. “You do not leave any open flame unattended outside or inside. Fire cannot be trusted.”