Florida Fires Merge; 16,000 Acres Burning

Two fast-moving brushfires raced through bone-dry forest and merged into one 16,000-acre blaze.


NEAR STARKE, Fla. --

About 1,000 people were evacuated from 700 homes Bradford County as three fast-moving brushfires raced through bone-dry forest and merged into one 16,000-acre blaze.

"It jumped over county Road 100 like it wasn't even there. So, nothing that we have done has done anything to stop this fire," said Annaleasa Winter of the Division of Forestry.

Forestry officials said at least one home has been destroyed and many others are being threatened as fire crews struggled to build fire lines around the blaze.

Residents in the Griffis Loop area to Batten Road and those in the region between 41st and 47th avenues have been asked to evacuate.

Channel 4's Laura Mazzeo found some residents who did not leave when the evacuation was ordered.

"They came in the afternoon yesterday and told us to evacuate and my husband said no," resident Sharon Miley said. "Now I did pack me a bag -- it was sitting in the living room, just in case."

A Red Cross shelter was opened for evacuees at Bradford Middle School at 527 North Orange Street. There is also a shelter at the Waldo Baptist Church at 14430 Kennard off Highway 24.

Hampton Elementary School will be closed on Tuesday for students only. Staff is required to report to the district office.

All other schools are expected to be open Tuesday. However, school officials said any other students who have been displaced or can not make it because of the fire will be excused.

State Road 100 was closed from Keystone Heights to Starke and State Road 18 is closed from Hampton to State Road 100.

Drivers are being asked to avoid the area and take alternate routes if possible.

Residents on County Road 18, as well as those on Rhoden Road and Meng Dairy Road have also been asked to evacuate.

Portions of Meng Dairy Road and Forsyth Road are closed.

"This fire actually began in Clay County on Camp Blanding, has burned completely through Bradford County and is running in to merge with a fire in Alachua County," Winter said Monday night. "Helicopters were dropping water to try to cool down the fire as it approaches county Road 18."

In addition to a large number of local firefighters, five units from Jacksonville, three from Union County and several units from the Division of Forestry were called in Monday night to help contain the blaze.

For emergency information, call the Bradford County Department of Emergency Management at 904-966-6300.

Previous Story:

  • May 7, 2007: Hundreds Evacuated As 2 Blazes Threaten To Merge