In the four hours before a North Naples brush fire was contained Tuesday, families in about 20 nearby homes were told by firefighters they could stay or they could go.
Some people waited. Some packed their things. Some weren't worried at all.
Ten tips for protecting your home from brush fires
■ Maintain a 30-foot buffer between your home and dense vegetation. Ensure fencing is in good condition.
■ Remove dead or overhanging branches around your home.
■ Keep tree limbs pruned six to 10 feet off the ground.
■ Regularly prune shrubs and brushes.
■ Keep your yard mowed and clear of tall, dry grass.
■ Keep your yard and gutters clear of leaves and pine straw.
■ Promptly dispose of cuttings and debris.
■ Install spark arrestors on chimneys.
■ Keep firewood away from your home and other structures.
■ Build your driveway 14 feet wide to accommodate firefighting vehicles.
But as Collier County's first major brush fire of the year ripped through a wooded area near the Imperial Golf Estates and Mediterra neighborhoods, fire officials were ready.
"It's honestly not a surprise to us," said Victor Hill, a spokesman for the Florida Forest Service. "We're right in the middle of fire season."
If recent dry conditions are any indication, the 25-acre fire, which burned just south of the Lee County line, could be a sign of more to come. As of Tuesday, Collier County averaged 630 on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which measures soil moisture on a zero to 800 scale with higher numbers representing increased fire risk.
Lee County, which had two brush fires last week in Bokeelia and Lehigh Acres, averaged 659.
"We were ready for it," North Naples fire spokesman Jerry Sanford said of Tuesday's fire. "It was just a matter of time."
While the North Naples fire was being contained, firefighters issued a voluntary evacuation for Mediterra residents on Frescott Way and Imperial Golf Estates residents on Princess Court. The fire was first reported as about 2 acres in size around 3 p.m., but grew to about 25 acres before it was contained around 7 p.m.
Pauline Look, who lives on Princess Court, waited in her driveway with her dog, Whitney, and her cat, Eartha Kitt. She packed nothing else.
"I just figured they're only material objects," she said. "Everyone has to start from scratch sometime. What can you do? It's a force of nature."
Neighbor Scott Toth wasn't worried either.
"We're going to go out to dinner, I think," he said.
On a block of Princess Court that wasn't under evacuation, 13-year resident Elaine Hamilton said she prepared anyway, packing her checkbook, insurance papers, passport and two cats, Max and Cosmo.
"A little before 4, I heard planes circulating and saw the fire trucks," she said. "I just happened to be at home."
Although there was a smaller brush fire in the same area last year, it was "the first time that we've had it this close," said Harlan Dam, who has lived at Imperial Golf Estates for 11 years and who now serves as president of the homeowner's association.
By 7 p.m., residents on Princess Court were told they were safe to go back, Dam said. No one was injured in the fire and no homes were damaged, said Hill, the forest service spokesman.
Fire investigators still are trying to determine what caused Tuesday's fire, but Hill described it as "suspicious" and likely caused by a person, whether intentionally or accidentally.Firefighters will return to the scene today to "mop up" and make sure the fire doesn't flare up again, he said.
As fire season kicks into gear, Hill said homeowners can be prepared by keeping their property cleared of excess vegetation, like tree branches that hang too close to a house or garage.
Firefighters had a busy brush fire season last year, including battling the 2,800 acre "Slope" fire that threatened hundreds of homes in Golden Gate Estates. In May 2008, an 800-acre inferno destroyed three Golden Gate Estates homes.
"Unfortunately, this is just par for the course for this time of year," Hill said of Tuesday's fire.