By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2001
TARPON SPRINGS -- Two Florida Department of Environmental Protection employees were taken to Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital around 6 p.m. Friday after fighting a fire on a spoil island in the Anclote River.
A half-dozen DEP employees were cleaning up the 4-acre island and were burning Australian pine, an exotic plant, when flames jumped a containment ring and spread. The DEP employees, four women and two men, used rakes, shovels and buckets of water to try to control the flames, which eventually burned about a half-acre. The Tarpon Springs Fire Department, alerted by the Coast Guard, picked up four of the state employees by boat. The other two returned in their own boat to Anclote River Park, just over the county line in Pasco County.
Tarpon Springs Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Bowman said fire officials felt a doctor should check two of the DEP employees for exposure to smoke and heat because they showed "mild distress." Environmental specialists Lee Hughes, 27, and Kelly Driscoll, 26, were taken to Helen Ellis, where they were in stable condition Friday night. After the rescue, fire officials contained the fire and let it burn itself out.