tampabay.com

Wildfire: 'a living, breathing thing'

By MELANIE AVE, RON BRACKETT, and STEVE MADDEN
Published May 12, 2007


Wildfires pose a difficult and grueling challenge to those who fight them.

Windy and dry weather conditions combine with brush, trees and leaves to give wildfires life.

They can ignite in seconds - from a cigarette butt, campfire, stray yard trash - and with a roar can quickly consume thousands of acres. That was the case with the 16, 000-acre fire in the Santa Fe Swamp in Bradford County that began Monday after a lightning strike.

Two fires merged into one. It was still burning Friday.

There is one big difference between structure fires and wildfires.

"Wildfire moves, " said C.W. Blosser, president of the Florida State Firefighters Association. "As that fire moves, it gets larger."

They can jump roads and rivers and reignite if there's unburned fuel.

"You've got to respect fire, " said Oldsmar firefighter David Smolenski, 36, who was helping fight fires in Alachua County this week. "If you don't, it could kill you. It's a living, breathing thing, just like us."