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Firefighters tame blaze on dry lake bed

A resident first spotted the fire on marshy Bradley Lake in Floral City on Friday night. No homes were damaged or people injured.

By JORGE SANCHEZ

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 14, 2001


FLORAL CITY -- A marsh fire that consumed about 550 acres was brought under control Saturday night after a 24-hour effort by state and local firefighters.

The fire did not damage any homes, but smoke and ashes came close enough to worry residents.

The fire burned across the dry lake bed of Bradley Lake, between Istachatta and Daniels roads, off State Road 48 east of Floral City.

It started on the eastern shore of Lake Bradley, which is now a mostly dried-out marsh due to the drought. Fire officials were unable to find out what started the fire over the weekend.

Bill Crawford, who owns a home at the end of Oak Court off Istachatta Road, said he first saw the fire Friday night as it burned just across a small pond from his house.

"The sky was glowing," he said. "It was a beautiful sight. That is, if you weren't a part of it."

The fire moved from east to west, away from Crawford's house, across the lake bed and toward Daniels Road.

County firefighters from Inverness, Citrus Springs and Floral City set up a command post on Crawford's property. They were joined by a firefighting team from the state Department of Forestry.

"The firefighters did an excellent job," Crawford said.

The forestry firefighters went into the lake bed Friday night and Saturday to control the fire. They used bulldozers to dig fire lines and a bombadier to maneuver in the marshy lake bed and attack the fire, and they set backfires to slow the fire's progress. A bombadier is an all-terrain tractor equipped with a 300-gallon water tank and a plow.

Throughout the day Saturday, a helicopter made dozens of drops with a water bucket. The helicopter pilot refilled the bucket from nearby Lake Consuella, just west of Bradley Lake.

By midday Saturday, a huge plume of gray smoke drifted across portions of Floral City. Ashes from the fire fell throughout the town and in Floral City Park, about 1.5 miles south.

As the forestry team fought the fire on the lake bed, fire trucks from several precincts in east Citrus lined up along Daniels Road to fight the fire if it threatened homes.

Though the fire did break through the fire line briefly at about 5 p.m. Saturday, no homes were damaged, and no one was ordered to evacuate.

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