Published January 13, 2015
Firefighters from 33 fire departments had the major blaze 60 percent contained Sunday morning, but worried that windy conditions and rising temperatures could stoke lingering hot spots, said Gerry LaCavera, wildfire mitigation specialist with the Florida Division of Forestry.
The cause of the fire was unknown but investigators "consider the fire suspicious," LaCavera said.
No injuries were reported, and it was not immediately clear how many homes were destroyed.
Viola Esquivel, 44, said only a front brick wall remained after flames engulfed her Lehigh Acres home.
"The neighbors were running all over with hoses and pressure washers. Everybody tried to help everybody, but the flames got too close and we ran," Esquivel told the News-Press.
Four smaller fires had also been contained after burning out of control for about 10 hours Saturday, authorities said.
Some residents who own construction equipment such as bulldozers were helping to extinguish the flames with dirt, LaCavera said.
The fires destroyed two fire trucks and killed several pets, said Lee County Sheriff's Lt. Robert Forrest.
"I'm aware we lost one goat and a couple dogs," he said.
About 60 people were evacuated to the Veterans Memorial Park Recreation Center, where roughly half spent the night in their cars in the parking lot because their pets were not permitted in the shelter, Forrest said.
About 1,000 LCEC customers in Lee County remained without power Sunday, according to a company spokeswoman.
Since Jan. 1, more than 20,000 acres have burned in Florida from over 1,500 wildfires, the Division of Forestry said on its Web site.
A brush fire that consumed about 5,300 acres over three days in northern Brevard County was intentionally set, officials said Saturday. The blaze forced authorities to close Interstate 95 twice last week.