St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • Crist may get brushoff in education transition
  • Hospital deaths draw attention of officials
  • 'A firestorm like I've never seen'
  • It's Bush vs. Bush in gulf drilling battle
  • Area college changes advance
  • Butt out of Capitol, court tells judge
  • Proposal to pay for schools irks Bush
  • Legislature 2001
  • Around the state

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story

    printer version

    'A firestorm like I've never seen'

    The weather concocts ideal conditions for a fire that drove up to 200 people from their homes and paralyzed traffic on I-75.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001

    A wildfire continued to burn out of control early today in south Sarasota County, forcing scores of residents from their homes, closing an 8-mile stretch of Interstate 75 and scorching more than 4,500 acres.

    Authorities fear the problems could worsen today as dryness and wind create ideal conditions for the fire to grow.

    The fire, which started when a controlled burn got out of hand, drove as many as 200 people from their homes, destroyed one house and caused massive traffic backups as thousands of cars and trucks were detoured onto U.S. 41.

    The evacuees were from subdivisions around the North Port area, endangered when strong winds pushed the fire to the southwest, across I-75.

    Winds today are expected to shift to the west or northwest, sending smoke toward the Gulf of Mexico and towns such as Englewood and Venice, and possibly Sarasota.

    The fire started Tuesday when the controlled burn got out of hand and charred 3,200 acres of the T. Mabry Carlton Reserve, said Jeff Aaron, Sarasota County's public information officer.

    The county authorized the burn to clear 550 acres in the reserve and destroy some of the dry brush that fuels wildfires.

    But the weather changed and winds whipped up to 23 mph, fanning the blaze across a 41/2-mile area, Aaron said.

    More than 100 firefighters fought the blaze Wednesday as it carved a path to the southwest and crossed I-75, which was shut down between exits 33 and 34 late Wednesday afternoon.

    The fire crossed two 100-foot-wide fire breaks and threatened the Woodland Estates and North Port Estates subdivisions, south of I-75.

    "This is Black Wednesday," said Chuck Johnston of the Forestry Division.

    "A firestorm moved through here like I've never seen."

    Evacuated neighbors went out on nearby roads away from the fire to watch the blaze. Residents of Woodland Estates near North Port were asked to evacuate to a shelter at an elementary school.

    Tanker planes from the U.S. Forest Service dropped load after load of fire retardant, and helicopters continuously dropped water.

    Heavy smoke hampered firefighting efforts as forest rangers aboard tractors tried to plow fire lines through the woods. Flames reached 60 feet high, a sea of orange engulfing largely undeveloped lands.

    Panicked residents rushed from their homes with only what they could carry as the flames and smoke blew through the neighborhood at about dinner time.

    About 100 horses also were evacuated from the area.

    -- The Sarasota Herald Tribune contributed to this report, which contains information from The Associated Press.

    Back to State news
    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan

    From the Times state desk