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Lehigh Acres brush fires prompt evacuations

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LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. Two brush fires forced evacuations and damaged seven homes Sunday, officials said.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes around 10 p.m., a Red Cross official said.

One fire burned near the intersection of Grant Boulevard and Charwood Avenue South, where flames broke out around 1:30 p.m., Lehigh Acres Fire Rescue said. That blaze damaged one home but was 100 percent contained shortly before 8 p.m., the Florida Forest Service said.

Another began near 3213 43rd St. SW. and spread to the south side of State Road 82. That one damaged six homes and was 85 percent contained as of 8 p.m., according to the Forest Service.

State Road 82 was temporarily shut down between Daniels Parkway and Sunshine Boulevard South, the Florida Highway Patrol said. A stretch of State Road 82 between Sunshine Boulevard South and Homestead Road South reopened shortly before 6 p.m., and the rest opened just after 7:30 p.m.

Officials knocked on doors and told residents in the vicinity of the fires to go to the Veterans Community Park Recreation Center at 55 Homestead Road S., where a temporary shelter was set up with food and water.

Workers from the Red Cross and Lee County Emergency Medical Services and two nurses were there before the shelter closed.

A reverse 911 call also went out to those in danger, Lee County Emergency Management spokeswoman Christie Knudson said.

The extent of the damage to the homes is unclear.

The causes of the fires are also unclear, though the fire near Grant and Charwood is considered suspicious, Knudson said. Investigators are looking into whether it may have been arson.

Lee County Electric Cooperative crews were working on power lines at 43rd Street Southwest and Ruth Avenue South shortly after 10 p.m. It’s unclear how many customers, if any, were without service.

Windy conditions and low humidity made the fires more difficult to contain, Florida Forest Service spokesman Patrick Mahoney said.

Smoke from the fires remains nearby, and Knudson urged residents to keep their windows closed. Plumes could be seen from JetBlue Park, where the Boston Red Sox were playing a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves:

WINK News photojournalist Caleb Ramsey captured footage of flames close to a house near 40th Street Southwest and Ruth Avenue South:

WINK News reporter Taylor Bisacky went live via Facebook from the scene near Grant and Charwood:

No further information was immediately available.