Brush fire threatened homes


By Andrew Ackerman, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 5, 2003



Martin County firefighters battled an intense brush fire Friday afternoon that threatened a few homes in a gated subdivision.

The blaze began at around 3 p.m. behind the Willoughby Glen subdivision about 3 miles from downtown Stuart.

A fire lieutenant at the scene who declined to be identified said firecrackers were likely to blame, but the official cause is still unknown.

"We don't know what the cause was" said Jim Loffredo, district fire chief for Martin County. "It's still under investigation."

Early on, the fire grazed the edges of several back yards, but then the wind shifted directions and it moved at a brisk pace north towards Indian Road.

Winds clocked at about 25 mph made it difficult to control the fire. It traveled more than half a mile before moving slightly westward, where it was eventually contained late in the afternoon.

One firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation, Loffredo said.

As the fire moved to the north, it came perilously close to a vacant strip mall, where about a dozen onlookers had gathered in their cars to watch. A sheriff's deputy was forced to shout at the bystanders to get in their cars and drive away from the scene.

"Get out of here now," the sheriff repeatedly yelled, until the area was cleared.

As firefighters moved to battle the flames farther north, Harry Sherer was defending his home in Willoughby Cove with a garden hose. Sherer sprayed water on flames that had mostly died down, facing the forest behind his house that by 5 p.m. more resembled a parched wasteland than a healthy woodland.

"(The fire department) said we didn't have to worry, but hell, why should they have to worry, it's not their problem," Sherer said.

Loffredo said it could be days before the brush fire is fully put out.

"We need to have a good heavy rainstorm," he said.

andrew_ackerman@pbpost.com