Kids playing with fireworks in the drought-ridden neighborhood of LaMancha in Royal Palm Beach, Florida is the likely cause of a massive brush fire that threatened homes and kept firefighters on their toes on Monday, June 28th. At 3:22 p.m. Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Stations 28 and 21 were dispatched to a fire in the Fox Preserve property east of Bilbao Street in the Village of Royal Palm Beach. They were met with a large column of black smoke and a steady breeze that served to feed the fire and draw it in a westerly direction towards the neighboring homes.
Citizens lined the streets as firefighters from Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue and Florida Division of Forestry responded in force. As the fire rapidly approached the homes, residents resorted to deploying garden hoses onto roofs and into backyards in an effort to stop the roaring flames. Fire engines and 3" fire hose lined Bilbao Street as firefighters established a strong front against the raging fire. Fire engine mounted water cannons (deck guns) were placed in service to supplement hose lines already in use in the back yards of the homes. The deck guns each flowed hundreds of gallons of water per minute over the roofs of homes and helped keep the damage to the homes and yards to a minimum.
Within a short time, Forestry had deployed 4 tractor units, a brush truck, and a helicopter that dropped 300 gallons of water at a time on the fire; Royal Palm Beach Police and Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office had deployed significant resources aimed at crowd control and evacuation, and Fire-Rescue had responded with a total of 45 units including 12 engines, 1 quint, 12 brush trucks, 5 rescue units, 2 - 3000 gallon water tenders, a canteen unit and several chief officers. Red Cross responded to the nearby First Baptist Church of Royal Palm Beach where the command post had been established. Sheriff's and Fire-Rescue's command units were set up there as well as a water supply for brush units as they emerged from the wooded area.
Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue and Forestry maintained a constant vigil in the area to assure that no further problems developed. Although several homes received damage to their yards from fire and from brush trucks driving through them, none suffered major damage and there were no reported injuries. Due to the great resources that converged on the scene in a very short time, citizens and municipal leaders were able to see firsthand the awesome benefit of having a large regional fire department with unlimited resources standing ready to handle an emergency of this magnitude.