Florida Wildfire Spreading, Forcing Evacuations

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. --

What started as a small wildfire in East Orange County has now grown to more than 400 acres.

Eighty Homes along East Orlando Avenue near Belvedere Road in Bithlo were evacuated (see map). Corner Lakes Middle School on Chuluota Road has been opened as a shelter for residents who had to evacuate. (see map)

Those families were allowed to go back home around 10:00pm Sunday night. Firefighters determined the homes were safe enough to return to for now. The homes could be evacuated again, if the fire gains more strength.

Fire crews will be out in full force overnight, protecting the area. They were able to put a line around about half of the wildfire. But it still has not been fully contained, firefighters said.

Residents said they were grateful to return home, but will remain nervous until the flames have been put out.

"It just worries me, it's a little too close to home right now," said Mandy Mascoto, homeowner.

Firefighters hope lighter winds and rising humidity overnight will help keep the flames from spreading toward homes.

"You never know when there is going to be a wind gust or wind change to push the fire this way," said homeowner Colt Neumann.

This is the second time in less than 24 hours residents in that area were forced to evacuate.

Orange County fire crews first responded to the fire just before 8:00 Saturday night. Thick brush made it difficult for firefighters to reach the fire. As a precaution, they evacuated approximately twenty nearby homes. Those residents were allowed back in their homes just before midnight.

The fire caused more problems Sunday morning when smoke forced officials to close part of state road 50 between state road 520 and Hodges Boulevard. The road has since reopened.

The Division of Forestry is monitoring another wildfire nearby. That fire is burning approximately 275 acres near Fort Christmas Road. It is not threatening any structures.

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