Huge Fire Rings in Start of Florida Brush Fire Season

A small brush fire in the western community of Royal Palm Beach Acreage in Palm Beach County, Florida erupted quickly into a raging inferno as high winds, driven by an approaching cold front, whipped into town April 11, 2003. The initial units on scene, Brush 26 and Engine 26 were unable to contain the rapidly moving fire that began in the area of 140th Road North and Northlake Blvd. The fire threatened homes and snarled traffic for hours but did not result in anything more that about 500 acres of property damage.

Brush, engine, and rescue units from Stations 20, 21, 22, 26, 27 and 17 responded to the scene along with Battalion Chief 1, District Chief 2, brand new Tender 21, and a host of other officers and support units. Florida's Department of Agriculture-Division of Forestry responded with several plow tractors, a Bombardier tractor, a UH-1D helicopter, an aerial surveillance plane, aircraft refueler and other units. Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies shut down busy Northlake Blvd. for hours through the evening rush hour and on into the night as dense smoke made driving hazardous. Northlake Blvd. was actually used as a firebreak and staging area for units fighting the fire.

Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers were also on hand to patrol the area which included portions of a natural protected area. In addition to ground firefighting units, a Division of Forestry helicopter made dozens of water drops onto hard to reach areas of the fire using a 300 gallon bag and water from a nearby canal. Due to the fact that units were on scene for over 24 hours, the American Red Cross responded with meals for weary firefighters. A fuel tanker was brought in to fill fire apparatus involved in the extended operations.

Smoke from the fire could be seen from miles around, and news helicopters hovered overhead while on-scene camera crews and reporters staged nearby the Command Post. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office' brand new LDV Mobile Command Post was brought in as the incident lingered into nightfall giving Command Staff a respite from the bird-sized mosquitoes.

Crews rotated in and out of the fire scene for the next day or so in order to extinguish hotspots and to protect against spot-overs. There were no injuries.