and Climate Change
Florida: Roads closed, residents evacuated as wildfires
grow, new ones emerge
By FRANK FERNANDEZ and DINAH VOYLES
PULVER, Staff writers
Smoke concentrations are expected to remain and residents are
asked to call 9-1-1 if they see active flames or heavy columns
of smoke, but not to report generally smoky conditions.
Officials say drivers should use extreme caution and headlights
at all times. Officials also ask residents to follow directions
of emergency officials as conditions warrant, as well as to
prepare a disaster kit and take pets with them when evacuating.
New wildfires forced more evacuations Wednesday in Volusia and
Flagler counties and closed State Road 40, while firefighters
continued battling and mopping up nearly 60 fires.
At Seminole Woods in Flagler County, a new fire at Slocum Path
and Slippery Rock Place raised old fears. Wildfire destroyed homes
in the community in 1985 and again in 1998, and its residents have
been on guard since the White Eagle fire threatened homes there
Cameron Johnson, 14, was in his room when his mom asked him to
move a "for sale" sign in front of their house on Sloganeer Trail.
He stepped outside and started to move the sign.
"I just turned around, and I saw this big column of smoke,"
Cameron said. "I went back inside and yelled, 'Mom, fire or
another fire!' "
Cameron jumped on his bicycle and rode up and down Sloganeer
Trail ringing doorbells and warning neighbors. Things looked grim.
It "looked like the wind was on fire," he said.
Four houses were evacuated. Residents in other parts of Volusia
and Flagler were warned to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.
"It's getting a little worse each day," said Mike Kuypers, who
supervises the Florida Division of Forestry district that includes
the two-county area. "Every time you think you're catching up, you
have six or seven new fires."
No new damages were reported Wednesday, as firefighters from the
forestry division, both counties and many municipalities continued
their efforts. They worked in severe conditions with the heat
index topping 100 degrees and winds, at times up to 20 mph,
blowing from almost every possible direction. But smoke plagued
the aerial attack.
Airplanes and helicopters were being used, including three
National Guard Blackhawk helicopters staging out of the Flagler
County Airport. But at one point, Kuypers said, smoke created such
visibility problems that the aircraft had to be grounded for a
In Volusia County, five new fires flared up, including two along
S.R. 40 and one on Old Oak Circle in Pierson.
One of those was a 300-acre fire near the intersection of State
Road 11 and the other was a 50-foot by 50-foot fire at Plantation
Pines, which was quickly contained. Parts of both roads were
closed, including seven miles of S.R. 40, which remained closed
Wednesday and only residents allowed in. The highway reopened
about 9 p.m.
Carmen Clifton, who lives near the intersection of S.R. 40 and
S.R. 11, said she noticed smoke billowing from woods near her home
just before lunchtime and called the forestry division. The fire
was behind her neighbor's home and to the right, "just across the
creek." The neighbor, Joan Powell, was at work but Clifton went
over and hosed down the house until firefighters arrived and told
her to leave. Soon, helicopters arrived and began dipping water
out of two 3-acre ponds the Cliftons have on their farm where her
husband's family has lived for 160 years.
"It's better to have dead fish and no fires than plenty of fish
and the fires burning up everything," Clifton said. "So the fire
trucks and news trucks have been here all afternoon and I've been
selling peas in between.
"I wasn't really afraid because I knew there was a lot of
equipment around," she said. "It's just a lot of stress."
Her neighbor was among three homes in the area evacuated.
Seven miles east of the Cliftons, along S.R. 40 west of Ormond
Beach, traffic backed up a quarter-mile Wednesday afternoon as
sheriff's deputies blocked traffic. Cars were turned back toward
town unless they had identification that proved residency.
Tammy Parks, who lives on nearby Appaloosa Lane, two blocks east
of Pinto, said her husband was trying to get home from Ocala but
was detoured at S.R. 11.
In southern Volusia, off Maytown-Osteen Road east of Osteen,
residents began returning Wednesday to remote neighborhoods where
five homes and dozens of hunting camps were destroyed overnight
Monday by a 1,200-acre wildfire.
That road closed Wednesday between Gobbler's Lodge and Bell Ridge
Road, in part because of active fire and in part because of
concerns about falling fire-damaged pine trees. But residents who
had been under a voluntary evacuation order were allowed to
return. The road reopened Wednesday evening.
A man accompanying his mother sifting through burnt rubble of her
weekend getaway rental home said a neighbor lost two hunting dogs.
Along Saylor Road, fireplaces, stoves, bathtubs, pots and pans
were all that could be identified from the remains of 10
A woman who didn't want to be interviewed or photographed said
she lost all her orchids. Her son, who also did not identify
himself, sifted under the bent and burnt frame of a bed looking
for a pistol he couldn't find.
"That's where I kept it, under the bed," his mother told him, as
he poked into ashes and retrieved what looked like a gun barrel.
Other homes had scorched orange trees in the yard while others
had burned out pickups, tractor mowers and trailers.
In Flagler, the 2-week-old, 4,300-acre Espanola fire gained new
County spokesman Carl Laundrie said the fire made "a strong run"
east but was stopped west of the railroad tracks west of U.S. 1.
At Seminole Woods in southern Flagler, things got "kind of crazy
there for a little while," said Todd Schroeder, a spokesman for
the forestry division.
Flagler County's Fireflight helicopter started dropping buckets
of water on the flames. Yellow fire hoses snaked like pythons
along the road as a Palm Coast ladder truck sprayed jets of water.
The fast-moving fire was most likely sparked by a "spot-over," an
ember carried by the wind and landing on the parched ground, said
Palm Coast Fire Chief Mike Beadle. No one was injured and no homes
were damaged but three or four vacant lots burned.
Neighbors quickly joined forces. Randy Hoback, a dust mask around
his neck, was on the roof of Canna and Mike Mittelman's house,
holding a garden hose as he doused the roof with water. At one
point, Hoback said, the flames were about a hundred yards away and
towering 40 or 50 feet.
"For about 10 minutes, I thought it was coming across the canal,"
Hoback said, "but they were able to drop one huge bucket that got
it stopped from coming across."
-- Staff Writers Patricio G. Balona and Audrey Parente
contributed to this report.
Name of Fire (listed by start date): acreage
Powerline #2: 21
Dog Pen: 58.1
White Eagle: 134.1
Strawn #1: 85
Plum Creek S.R. 40: 0.4
Spruce Street: 0.1
Strawn #2: 8
Tattoo West: 7.5
Ranch House: 39
San Marco: 0.1
Road 80: 0.2
Southwest Pine Island: 0.8
John Campbell #1: 0.5
John Campbell #2: 3
Relay Tower: 0.3
Road 72/76: 2
Grand Champion: 0.2
Lehigh Road: 1.3
Slippery Rock: 2
Shell Harbor: 243
Lake Woodruff: 40
Lake Harney Shore: 3
Break 9: 18.4
Hunting Camp Rd 64: 33
Lake Harney Rd: 18.5
Break 8: 12
Break 13: 1.5
Weaver Push: 6
Tomoka Park: 0.2
Tomoka Park #2: 6
River Road East: 1.6
Dew Drop: 0.6
Duroc Drive: 4.5
Pistol Range: 3.8
Ranchette Road: 4
Plum Creek: 0.1
Road 5: 0.1
Clark Bay: 15
Stacy Grove: 0.1
Larkspur East: 0.7
Daytona North: 1.5
92 West Parkway: 0.1
Maytown Road: 1,200
Weaver Push #2: 2.5
West Highbanks: 7 442
West: 24 Break 1: 0.1
Clinton Cemetary: 45
I-95 Possum Camp: 7
State Road 40: 300
Old Oak Circle, Pierson: 2-3
Source: Florida Division of Forestry