Gov. Rick Scott tours 2,300-acre Golden Gate Estates brush fire

Map of 'Slope,' the lightning-initiated fire that burned 2,304 acres of Golden Gate Estates in a wooded area south of Golden Gate Boulevard and West of Everglades Boulevard by Thursday, April 28, 2011. The fire started west of 38th Avenue Southeast and moved north, burning 500 acres Tuesday. It then grew to more than 1,700 acres Wednesday, creeping into homes along 14th Street Southeast.

Photo by MATT CLARK // Buy this photo

Map of "Slope," the lightning-initiated fire that burned 2,304 acres of Golden Gate Estates in a wooded area south of Golden Gate Boulevard and West of Everglades Boulevard by Thursday, April 28, 2011. The fire started west of 38th Avenue Southeast and moved north, burning 500 acres Tuesday. It then grew to more than 1,700 acres Wednesday, creeping into homes along 14th Street Southeast.

2,304 acres burn in Golden Gate Estates

Rick Scott visits Golden Gate Estates to ...

Video from NBC-2

Gov. Rick Scott visited the 2,304-acre Golden Gate Estates brush fire Thursday afternoon, viewing the scorched earth from a Collier County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, visiting with fire officials for an update on the fire, and holding a short press briefing.

“I was in Martin County. We just announced a company had 600 (new) jobs over there,” Scott said to start the briefing. “I was on my way to Miami, and I just wanted to see what was going on.”

Speaking from Golden Gate Fire Rescue District Station 71, Scott said he was impressed with the efforts of the Florida Division of Forestry, fire districts in Collier and Lee counties and other agencies that have assisted in fighting the fire.

“Slope,” as the fire has been dubbed, began with a lightning strike and grew to 500 acres Tuesday, expanded to more than 1,700 acres Wednesday and added another 600 acres Thursday morning. The fire has threatened hundreds of homes, burned one trailer home and destroyed two vehicles.

“What’s impressive is that we’ve lost one trailer home,” Scott said. “If you fly over, you can see how unbelievable it was. This fire went right around some houses.

“It’s very impressive what’s happened so far,” Scott said. “We all need to hope and pray we don’t get a lot of wind and we get some rain.”

Division of Forestry officials are concerned less desirable weather could cause the fire to jump the containment line being bulldozed around it. By Thursday evening, the fire was only 50 percent contained.

Firefighters worry more brisk winds expected for Friday and Saturday will change direction several times and cause Slope’s smoldering remains to fly off into various directions, challenging every part of the containment line.

When asked if additional resources would be coming from the state, Scott noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had approved a grant to reimburse costs of the fire fight.

Division of Forestry Spokesman Victor Hill said the FEMA grant will cover 75 percent of the costs, including numerous overtime hours and other costs for off-duty personnel that have been brought in for the fight.

Both Division of Forestry Region Four Deputy Chief of Field Operations David Utley and Golden Gate Fire Rescue Chief Robert Metzger said they have the resources they need to fight the fire and did not request any additional resources from Scott.

“This is a local issue,” Metzger said.

Utley noted that a Division of Forestry strike team of five additional bulldozers and 10 personnel was already on its way from Tallahassee.

Metzger said this week’s brush fire should remind citizens of the importance of keeping brush away from their homes to make it easier for firefighters to protect structures.

“This is real,” Metzger said of the importance of preparedness. “This situation proves that.”

Scott said there are also fires in Glades and St. Johns counties.

“Everybody needs to be prepared to ensure we take care of this,” Scott said. “Let’s hope we don’t have any escalation.”

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