Officials: Collier County wildfire 50 percent contained

NAPLES, Fla. (WSVN) – The wildfire that has burned over 7,000 acres and forced thousands to evacuate their homes in eastern Collier County is 50 percent contained, officials said.

The rain over the weekend helped officials contain the fire from 10 to 50 percent, but firefighters are still working along the edges to make sure winds will not fan hot spots.

The flames sparked Thursday and in just three days has consumed homes and property while sending some residents to the hospital. Many of those residents fortunate enough to have evacuated safely still cannot return home, although all evacuation orders have been lifted.

“When you have to leave your home with all your kids and your stuff, it’s a lot,” said Joelle Thomas, a Collier County resident said.

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Luanne Thomas was one of many who were forced to evacuate. “Devastating. I cried a lot,” she said. “I think I’m done crying now.”

Her home was spared but there was still a lot of destruction in her backyard. “It’s a lot, it’s an awful lot,” Thomas said. “We have the house, we have us. That’s what’s important.”

Rain on Saturday afternoon helped put out hotspots, but Greater Naples Fire Rescue Chief Kingman Schult said the fight isn’t over.

“It was a fight for life, 24 hours ago, so we are not going to diminish our capabilities right now,” Schult said. “We lost nine structures, a lot of our parcels, mobile homes, boats, campers, a tremendous amount of damage. It sent somebody to the hospital with very severe burns.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned residents that they’re not in the clear yet, following a briefing with fire officials.

“It’s great that we got the rain,” Scott said. “It’s great the humidity is up, but it didn’t stop the fire.”

Crews worked into the night on Friday, using bulldozers to plow through the front line, make breaks and stop the fire’s spread.

Florida Forest Service Deputy Chief John Kern said they are planning for shifting weather patterns heading into the week.

“Monday, we’re looking at strong winds out of the west, pushing the fire in another direction,” Kern said. “Should it break out or should we get a new fire from the possible thunderstorms, we do have active crews out there working with heavy equipment out in the area.”

Officials said the wildfire sparked when a lawn mower hit a rock.

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