Neighbors return home after brush fire in Charlotte County, firefighters work overnight

Published: Updated:
Cape Haze brush fire on Feb. 24, 2020. (Credit: Michael Pineault)

A brush fire that spread over 250 acres forced people in 40 homes to evacuate between South Gulf Cove and Rotonda West Monday, according to the Charlotte County Sheriffs Office. That included the entire community west of Masthead Road.

Dozens of families are home after the fire forced them to evacuate. Several homes were threatened near the South Gulf Cove community. No homes were damaged.

“In my mind, ‘Oh, my God, Jesus Christ,’ I hope I don’t lose my house,” said neighbor Rob Foster in Rotonda Sands.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting the flames.

“I could see the flames going through the tops of the pine trees, and I knew this was bad,” said neighbor Gary Erickson in Rotonda Sands.

Homeowners were forced out for more than five hours while firefighters responded to put out the flames.

“I had to pack all the dogs and the birds up, get them situated and leave,” neighbor Christen Husz said.

The Englewood Fire Control District and the Boca Grande Fire Department responded to the site near Gasparilla Rd. The fire jumped roads at one point. Firefighters from Manatee County to Lee County responded to assist those working in Charlotte County.

“I was just going to go out for a walk and the truck came up right to my driveway,” Foster said. “And the guy started yelling at me and saying, ‘You better get out of here.’ And I looked up, and I saw a wall of flames coming toward my house. I knew I was in trouble.”

As of 11 p.m. Monday, the fire was estimated to be 95 percent contained.

“I came in that way, and I was able to see my house,” Husz said. “And I was so relieved to see my home. Until you see it, you don’t know.”

FPL is working to restore electricity to homeowners who had to evacuate.

“I was relieved. Then, I went to get back in the house, and, now, I have no electricity,” Husz said. “They don’t know when it’s going to be back on.”

Crews continue to battle hot spots through the night and work toward fully containing the fire.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Lehigh Fire district has this reminder:

“It is easy to forget that our beautiful weather comes with dangers and this time of year means wildfires. As of yesterday, the Florida Forest Service increased our fire danger to high. This means it is easy for wildfires to start due to the dry brush and low rainfall which is typical in the winter months of Florida. Use caution when outdoors – keep barbecue grills maintained and contained – don’t park vehicles in grass where the hot motor can spark a grass fire – don’t throw smoking materials outdoors, use ashtrays and dispose of them properly.”

To learn more about wildfires and how to keep your home FireWise, click HERE.

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