LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. – Two boys were charged Sunday with setting weekend brush fires that have destroyed or damaged more than two dozen homes and burned more than 1,500 acres in southwest Florida, authorities said.
The boys, ages 10 and 12, were arrested and charged as juveniles with intentional and reckless burning of land, a third-degree felony, Lee County sheriff's Lt. Robert Forrest said. Authorities were seeking a third youth.
Both were being held at the county juvenile detention center, he said.
Firefighters had the major blaze 75 percent contained Sunday afternoon but worried that wind and rising temperatures could stoke hot spots, said Gerry LaCavera, a state wildfire specialist. Four smaller fires were contained Saturday. No one was injured.
At least nine homes and four sheds were destroyed, and an unknown number of other homes suffered some type of damage, said Gerry LaCavera, wildfire mitigation specialist with the Florida Division of Forestry.
Another 30 vehicles, from all-terrain vehicles to cars and boats, also were lost.
The fires also destroyed two fire trucks, and killed several pets, Forrest said. "I'm aware we lost one goat and a couple dogs," he said.
Four smaller fires were contained Saturday.
Some residents who own construction equipment such as bulldozers were helping to extinguish the flames with dirt, LaCavera said.
Residents were allowed back in the area Sunday afternoon, Forrest said. About 60 people evacuated their homes and had spent Saturday night at a recreation center.
About 1,000 customers lacked power in the county Sunday, according to the LCEC energy company.
Viola Esquivel, 44, said only a brick wall remained of her 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," she said.