Wildfire threatens 2,000 homes in southwest Florida

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2017 7:49 PM

(Reuters) - A wildfire in southwest Florida triggered evacuation orders for about 2,000 homes on Friday, prompting the governor to deploy National Guard troops to help residents fleeing the flames.

The wildfire has charred about 4,800 acres (1,942 hectares) in Collier County and forced residents to evacuate their houses in the Golden Gate Estates area of Naples, said Clark Ryals, a senior forester for the Florida Forest Service. The blaze was only 10 percent contained.

"These wildfires are dangerous and if you're within the evacuation area, do not stay in your home," Florida Governor Rick Scott said in a statement after meeting with fire officials in the area.

Firefighters said some people have resisted calls to leave their homes, according to the Naples Daily News.

The fire, which erupted on Thursday, is consuming palmetto trees and grasses. It has destroyed an unknown number of houses in hard-to-reach areas with thick vegetation, Ryals said by phone.

One person suffered minor burns, he added.

A smaller wildfire also broke out in Collier County on Thursday and spread across 350 acres (142 hectares). It has since been completely contained.

About 200 firefighters are working to stop the growth of the two blazes, which are about a mile apart. The governor, aside from deploying Florida National Guard troops, said he also authorized the use of five UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to aid the effort.

The latest blazes follow a spate of other wildfires that have burned this month in drought-parched Florida, which prompted Scott to declare a state of emergency on April 11.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)