NEAR TAMPA, Fla. (WSVN) — A fast-spreading brush fire has engulfed more than 2,200 acres in a state park north of Tampa.
According to officials, it’s not just the fast-moving flames that firefighters are up against; it’s the weather. Dry conditions, combined with strong winds, fueled the fire and helped it grow.
Fortunately, iit is contained within Flatwoods Park, and as of Sunday, no homes or businesses were in danger.
Nearby residents were asked to voluntarily evacuate but have since been allowed to return. “It was a little scary, for sure, so we’re glad to see the improvement,” said Cheyenne Gunn.
“I saw a bunch of ashes and and a bunch of smoke. It looked like a giant blob in the sky,” said area resident Gabby Gray.
Smoke from the brush fire spread for miles. It was thick enough in Tampa to force officials to shut down parts of Interstate 75, forcing frustrated drivers to find alternate routes.
Crews on the ground continued to set controlled back fires to clear out dry brush in the blaze’s path. In the air, helicopters have dropped more than 35,000 gallons of water.
Officials said what they really need is rain. “We don’t need a heavy rain, because in this case the ground is so dry, water will stay on top of it,” said Pasco County Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie. “If we get five inches, we may be dealing with flood conditions. We need a nice, steady rain over a long period of time that will actually get ground penetration and ground saturation.”
With the area so dry, local leaders are urging residents to be careful, because just one spark can ignite a massive fire and ultimately destroy thousands of acres.
Flatwoods Park remained closed on Sunday so fire crews could focus their efforts on controlling the blaze which, officials said, has spread to more than 2,200 acres and is only about 10 percent contained.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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