Fla. Firefighter Seriously Burned Battling Wildfire

MIMS, Fla. --

A Brevard County firefighter suffered serious burns Tuesday while battling a growing wildfire that covers parts of Brevard and Volusia counties.

The fire grew to 16,000 acres Tuesday afternoon, and officials said it is only 25 percent contained. The majority of the blaze is burning in Brevard County and prompted officials to declare a state of emergency.

'Iron Horse' Battle Continues

type='node' cid='410541' /> MIMS, Fla. --

A Brevard County firefighter suffered serious burns Tuesday while battling a growing wildfire that covers parts of Brevard and Volusia counties.

The fire grew to 16,000 acres Tuesday afternoon, and officials said it is only 25 percent contained. The majority of the blaze is burning in Brevard County and prompted officials to declare a state of emergency.

'Iron Horse' Battle Continues

Witnesses said the injured firefighter used his hose to hit a very hot patch, and steam blew back into his face. Initial reports indicated he suffered second-degree burns and was transported by helicopter to Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Helicopters Join Firefighters To Battle Blaze

Parched land and gusty winds fanned the flames through the night as helicopters dropped water and more than 100 firefighters battled the blaze. Fifteen bulldozers worked in rough terrain to create fire breaks.

But at a news conference on Tuesday, officials said the fire was only partially contained, and shifting winds could move the fire southward into more populated areas and threaten as many as 300 homes.

The fire kept busy roads closed during the morning commute on Tuesday. Interstate 95 was closed for 21 miles. Authorities named U.S. Highway 1 as an alternate route, but that too had to be closed because of low visibility.

Many travelers were stuck and decided to just park until conditions improved.

Fire Jumps Interstate

"We were on I-95 northbound. We were able to get on an exit and thought we could get over to (U.S.) 1, but then it was closed too, so we're back at the freeway again," a motorist said.

"The smoke coming down here, you could see it for six or seven miles in the air. It looked like big clouds, and it's fire," a witness said.

Firefighters from the Florida Division of Forestry and Volusia County Fire Services urged residents and visitors to avoid driving in smoke if possible. Firefighters said that if drivers encountered smoke while driving, they should slow down, turn on their low-beam lights and pull away off the pavement, stop and turn on the car's emergency flashers.

RV Park Evacuated Ahead Of Flames

As the heavy smoke and flames surrounded Crystal Lake RV Park in Brevard County, people staying there could only watch and worry.

"I was up at the beach. They called and said to get down here as quick as you can because they were evacuating everything," Tom Campbell said.

Voluntary Evacuations

Officials at Brevard County Public Schools said Pinewood Elementary in Mims would be closed Tuesday because of the wildfire. Bus transportation for students north of state Road 46 would not be available because of safety concerns and road closures. All other schools in Brevard County are operating normally.

The fire ignited near Oak Hill in Volusia County on Monday. Winds pushed the blaze to the northeast, but weather officials expected winds to shift and may push the fire southward later on Tuesday.

Late Monday, emergency officials called for a voluntary evacuation of residents living in the area bordered by county Road 5A on the north, S.R. 46 on the south, U.S. 1 on the east and the St. Johns River on the west.

Officials said those who live within those borders are encouraged to stay with friends or family outside the area threatened by the brush fire.

A shelter was opened at the Cuyler Community Center at 2329 Harry T. Moore Ave. in Mims.

Firefighters from Brevard County, Division of Forestry, Edgewater and Volusia County were working to contain the blaze.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. Fire officials said they will investigate once the flames have been extinguished.

Fire officials have dubbed the massive blaze the "Iron Horse" brush fire.

The first Department of Forestry commander to respond to the fire said he saw what was coming at him and realized it would be interfering with Bike Week festivities. The huge motorcycle event starts on Friday and the commander said he was looking forward to a stop at the Iron Horse Saloon on U.S. 1 near Ormond Beach to be part of the action.

Fires Bring Back Shadow Of 1998 Wildfires

Some residents said they're experiencing the same worry and fear they had during the 1998 wildfires.

Resident Denise Kemp said she lived through the fires and the current brush fires bring back old memories.

"We left about 11 o'clock at night and then we didn't know if we had a home the next morning," said Kemp.

Fortunately, Kemp's home survived the 1998 fires. However, she said she's afraid since the current fire is 16,000 acres in size and the wind keeps changing directions.

Just like Denise, Division Chief Bob Seccuro for Brevard County Fire and Rescue said he has that feeling that it's 1998 all over again.

"I was on a brush truck in '98. I got burned over in 1998, right up here in this same area. We didn't burn 16,000 acres in one day in 1998, we did that yesterday," said Securro.

A total of 45,000 acres burned in Brevard County in 1998 and more than a 500,000 acres burned statewide.

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