Immokalee firefighters save homes in Golden Gate fire

Last Thursday, firefighters responded to the area of Everglades Blvd S. and 30th Ave SE due to a report of a possible brush fire. With a rapidly growing fire, firefighters throughout Collier County were called in to help fight the fire that was quickly growing in size as it moved west from Everglades Blvd S.

Submitted photo/Travis Anderson
Homeowner Kyle Dunn thanks firefighters after his home is spared in last weekend’s fire in Golden Gate Estates.

By Friday morning, mandatory evacuations were in place for residents living south of Golden Gate Blvd to I-75 and from Collier Blvd east to Everglades Blvd.

Then by mid-Friday afternoon, Collier County Manager Leo Ochs issued a burn ban county-wide after meeting with Collier County Bureau of Emergency Services, Florida Forest Service, Collier County Fire Chief’s Association and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials with the State of Florida Forest Service arrived on Friday and began working with fire officials who were overseeing the response at the local level.

As the fire continued to grow and move toward the more densely populated area just east of Collier Blvd, firefighters on the ground were supported by help from above. Several fire suppression aircraft units were used along with a Sikorsky helicopter from Helicopter Transport Services, which has the ability to drop 2,600 gallons of water with each lift. A BAe-146 fixed-wing plane, which has the ability to drop 3,000 gallons of retardant, was also used to help stop the forward progress of the blaze.

After two days of fighting the fire and nine homes being lost, the fire remained at 0% containment, but by Saturday firefighters were able to contain at least 10% of the growing blaze.

Although several homes were lost in the blaze, thousands of homes were saved due to the hard work of firefighters, law enforcement officers, and state officials.

One of those homes belonged to Kyle Dunn who recently purchased his property on Markley Ave off of Smith Rd just north of I-75. Dunn said that he stayed out of the area once the evacuation order was given, but wanted to come check on his property. Dunn arrived just minutes after a task force led by Battalion Chief Robert Mendoza with Immokalee Fire Control District rushed to stop part of the blaze that had spread into Dunn’s backyard. Firefighters were able to stop the fire just feet away from his stilt house.

Prior to saving Dunn’s property, the same task force quickly jumped into action and stopped the blaze from reaching the neighbor’s house as well.

Throughout the day on Saturday, firefighters staged fire engines at homes they could access while brush trucks and attack trucks from various departments across the state worked to eliminate areas burning further in off of the dirt roadways.

By late Saturday afternoon, significant rain provided firefighters with much needed help by knocking down some of the progress the fire had made. As of Monday afternoon, the fire which had grown to over 7,000 acres was over 50% contained thanks to patches of rain overnight and continued efforts of firefighters on the ground.

It’s expected that the fire will continue to burn for several days with areas of dense smoke setting in which could impact visibility along Collier Blvd and I-75.

Fire officials advise residents to keep an area of at least 30 feet around their homes free of large trees, clumps of grass or plants, palmettos, and pine needles as all of these are fuel sources for a fire to start and spread in a very hot climate such as ours. It’s also a good idea to keep other items away from your property such as old tires, wood pilings, and hazardous waste.

For more information on ways to protect your home or property, visit http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Florida-Forest-Service/For-Communities/Firewise-Communities

Travis can be reached at ibnews@newszap.com

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