Evacuations lifted, roads reopened in Collier brush fire

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan
Published: Updated:
Jim Kurth’s home on Le Buff Road was destroyed by a brush fire on Tuesday, March 7.

NAPLES, Fla.  The roads have reopened and evacuees are officially allowed to return home.

But the massive wildfire continues to burn and while most residents are returning to their properties intact, others weren’t as fortunate.

‘Hanging in there’

Jim Kurth barely escaped the flames.

“By the time (firefighters) got there, the fire was in the middle island and in the backyard and they had to go,” said his daughter, Shenna Zurbrigg. “The cops told them they had to get out of there.”

Here’s what was left of Kurth’s home, which he built and stood on Le Buff Road for about 30 years:

Jim Kurth’s home on Le Buff Road was destroyed by a brush fire on Tuesday.

“Hanging in there,” Zurbrigg, in-between sobs, said of her father. “We’re trying to get him the help that he needs.”

Kurth’s home was one of two destroyed by the ongoing brush fire, which also damaged a couple of vehicles and barns.

Approximately 7,500 acres have burned in the Picayune Strand State Forest due to the fire, which was about 40 percent contained as of Wednesday night, the Florida Forest Service said. Three structures, as well as multiple outbuildings, were lost in the fire.

Officials described Wednesday afternoon as the “calm before the storm.”

“Afternoon fire activity is anticipated to increase as humidity decreases and wind gusts increase,” the Florida Fire Service said in a statement. “Firefighters are strategically placed in areas that embers are expected to be of concern while improving containment lines. Wildland firefighting bulldozers are continuing to suppress the wildfire, with shifting winds, as the cold front approaches.”

The fire, which started on Sunday, has also resulted in a dense smoke advisory for the area until 7 a.m. Thursday.

It has also created a surreal experience for Kurth, who was too distraught to speak, his daughter said.

“When you’re living very close to a park that’s full of forest, there’s always the possibility,” Zurbrigg said. “You just never think it’s going to be you.”

WINK News anchor Channing Frampton discussed the loss with Kurth’s family:

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