• Firefighters put out a smoldering mulch fire at a landscaping business
    Firefighters put out a smoldering mulch fire at a landscaping business
  • Rotondo family home destroyed in brush fire
    Rotondo family home destroyed in brush fire
  • Jonathan Whitlow levels burning mulch
    Jonathan Whitlow levels burning mulch
  • Video: Sunday morning brush fire update
    Video: Sunday morning brush fire update
  • What we know about the brush fire: April 22, 2017
    What we know about the brush fire: April 22, 2017
  • Saturday night: Rick Scott gives update on brush fire
    Saturday night: Rick Scott gives update on brush fire
  • A damaged home off Keane Avenue
    A damaged home off Keane Avenue
  • Saturday: Giraffe returns to pen
    Saturday: Giraffe returns to pen
  • Saturday: Plane does a drop over brush fire in Collier
    Saturday: Plane does a drop over brush fire in Collier
  • 11 a.m. news briefing on brush fires on Saturday, April 22
    11 a.m. news briefing on brush fires on Saturday, April 22
  • Brush fire destroys equipment at American Farms
    Brush fire destroys equipment at American Farms
  • Tammy Smith of Ngala describes how they prepared for the fire
    Tammy Smith of Ngala describes how they prepared for the fire
  • Saturday: Crews fix power lines
    Saturday: Crews fix power lines
  • Saturday April 22, morning briefing on Golden Gate Estate brush fire
    Saturday April 22, morning briefing on Golden Gate Estate brush fire
  • Horse rescue during brush fire
    Horse rescue during brush fire
  • 5 things about the brush fire in Golden Gate Estates
    5 things about the brush fire in Golden Gate Estates
  • Friday night: Officials give update on brush fire
    Friday night: Officials give update on brush fire
  • Friday: Smoke from brush fire
    Friday: Smoke from brush fire
  • Jack Bernsen saves belongings from his home
    Jack Bernsen saves belongings from his home
  • Video: Brush fire Friday in Golden Gate Estates
    Video: Brush fire Friday in Golden Gate Estates
  • How to avoid breathing issues during fire season
    How to avoid breathing issues during fire season
  • Friday: Late afternoon brush fire update
    Friday: Late afternoon brush fire update
  • Friday: Fire crews at scene of brush fire
    Friday: Fire crews at scene of brush fire
  • Friday: Afternoon update on brush fires in Collier
    Friday: Afternoon update on brush fires in Collier
  • Gov. Rick Scott attends brush fires briefing
    Gov. Rick Scott attends brush fires briefing
  • Friday morning update from the scene of the Golden Gate Estates brush fires
    Friday morning update from the scene of the Golden Gate Estates brush fires
  • Friday: Cows move away brush fire
    Friday: Cows move away brush fire
  • Friday: Flames from brush fire
    Friday: Flames from brush fire
  • Avoiding breathing issues during fire season
    Avoiding breathing issues during fire season
  • Brush fire trail cam - Everglades Blvd on Thursday, April 21
    Brush fire trail cam - Everglades Blvd on Thursday, April 21
  • Aerial footage above brush fires in Golden Gate Estates
    Aerial footage above brush fires in Golden Gate Estates
  • Brush fires in Golden Gate Estates
    Brush fires in Golden Gate Estates
  • Crews battle brush fire in Golden Gate Estates
    Crews battle brush fire in Golden Gate Estates
  • Video: A look at Florida's brush fires
    Video: A look at Florida's brush fires
  • Rebuilding efforts after Lee Williams brush fire
    Rebuilding efforts after Lee Williams brush fire
  • 10 tips for protecting your home from brush fires
    10 tips for protecting your home from brush fires
  • Largest Southwest Florida wildfires in the last 10 years
    Largest Southwest Florida wildfires in the last 10 years
  • Video: Brush fire in North Naples
    Video: Brush fire in North Naples
  • Aerial footage of the brush fire in eastern Collier County
    Aerial footage of the brush fire in eastern Collier County
2159 5 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Collier County officials asked more residents to evacuate as a big brush fire in Golden Gate Estates grew fast Friday, posing a threat to more homes.

"Deputies are going door to door," said Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk.

"We have a lot of people who have chosen to stay," Rambosk said. "A lot of smoke, a lot of flame. A lot of propane tanks exploding.

"We just ask everyone to try and be careful if you're going to stay to try to protect your property," he said.

The fire was moving toward the Golden Gate community just west of the Estates, officials said, and was within a few miles of it.

The expanded evacuation zone includes 7,000 homes, in an area from Golden Gate Boulevard on the north, to Interstate 75 in the south, Wilson Boulevard to the east and Collier Boulevard to the west.

Noah's Landing apartments, a large complex near Collier Boulevard, was among the residences being evacuated.

Francisco Morales, 58, was on his way to church with his family Friday evening and didn’t plan to return to his Noah’s Landing apartment.

A state trooper stood at the entrance to the apartment complex on Collier Boulevard to urge people to evacuate as the brush fire got closer to the county landfill across the highway.

“It’s a problem for my family,” Morales said, loading the car along with his daughter, Macy, 13, and son, Francisco, 15. “I pray this night for a lot of people. Pray, pray, pray.”

Morales said he planned to go to his brother’s home or stay in a hotel, but Anna Garcia, 29, wasn’t sure where she would go if she left Noah’s Landing for the night. Her cousins evacuated from the Golden Gate Estates fire Thursday night.

Still, she said she packed up her important papers and pictures, just in case.

“I say it’s nothing, but I have everything ready,” Garcia said.

Anna Toledo, 52, evacuated from her White Boulevard home Friday to come stay with her daughter, Diana Balbosa, 29, at Noah’s Landing, only to find the evacuation orders had expanded and the two might have to find another place to stay.

Toledo said she has lived since 1997 in the house she built on White, and this is the first time she’s had to evacuate for a wildfire.

Skip in Skip
x

Embed

x
CLOSE

Collier officials gave an update Friday night, April 21, 2017, about the brush fire in Golden Gate Estates. Brett Murphy/Naples Daily News

“I left there crying,” she said.

About a dozen evacuees visited the American Red Cross reception center Friday at the Golden Gate Community Center, center managers said. A table was loaded with donated snacks and drinks. Papa John’s and Little Caesar’s donated pizzas. Burger King donated big bags of fries and burgers. Crisper’s donated a platter of subs.

“The whole local population is just wonderful,” manager Gaenor Speed said. “Very generous, very generous.”

By 7 p.m., a decision had not been made about whether the center would become an overnight shelter, but volunteers were on standby, Speed said. Another center that allows pets was open Friday at North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road.

The fire remains at 10 percent containment, according to officials, and though the fire is continuing to grow, they do not have a current acreage estimate.

"We have lost several structures. We had one person burned who would not leave their property. It's very dangerous out there. Bystanders need to leave the area," said Kingman Schuldt, fire chief with Greater Naples Fire Rescue.

Crews from surrounding counties, including Broward, Miami-Dade and Sarasota have arrived to assist in the efforts.

Gov. Rick Scott dispatched the National Guard to help evacuate some 2,000 residents south of Golden Gate Estates. Many are being directed to Golden Gate Community Center.

The fire is moving northwest up Inez Road, where it has caught three homes so far, said Mike Weston with the Florida Forest Service, which has 60 personnel on scene. Officials said there were more than 100 out in the smoke.

Firefighters said they've met some resistance from residents. Dan Summers, director of Collier County bureau of emergency services, implored residents to evacuate in the mandatory zone at a press briefing at 2 p.m.

In addition to humans, NGALA Wildlife Preserve, a nearby exotic animal sanctuary, is in the danger zone, Weston said.

Firefighters are hopeful the late afternoon sea breeze will help subside the flames. But they were also concerned of any sudden redirections, such as another jump across the other side of Interstate 75.

Earlier Friday, Collier County Emergency Management prepared the evacuation of an estimated 2,000 homes in the area of brush fires described by Gov. Rick Scott as the most threatening in the state.

"We're sending all the resources that are necessary," Scott said at a news conference in Naples.

More:One Golden Gate Estates brush fire 60 percent contained, other 10 percent

More:Golden Gate Estates brush fires threaten as winds whip 2 separate blazes to 1,650 acres

More:Heating up: Active fire season likely just the beginning in Collier, Lee counties

More:Collier brush fire means stay indoors to avoid smoke inhalation

More:Gov. Rick Scott attends briefing on Golden Gate Estates brush fires

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

The county called for mandatory evacuations in the neighborhoods between I-75 and White Boulevard, just east of Collier Boulevard. Authorities also extended the mandatory evacuation to include Golden Gate Boulevard. The other boundaries are south to Interstate 75 and from 39th Street east to Tobias Street. The county is also planning an early dismissal at the nearby Big Cypress Elementary School, said Dan Summers, the director for emergency services management.

Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk asked drivers to avoid the area.

"We're asking all drivers -- if you don't live in the area, please don't come into the area," he said.

Click here to view a map of the brush fires »

Doug Burns sat in an old golf cart parked on a dirt road near his home off Keane Avenue just before noon Friday and watched as the thick plumes of grey and brown smoke moved closer.

“We’re in trouble if this thing keeps coming this way,” he told a neighbor.

Residents and employees of local businesses are starting to flee this stretch of road deep in Golden Gate Estates as fires continue to spread. Burns said he’ll leave, too, if the fire gets too close.

“I ain’t going nowhere until that flame comes,” he said.

He and his neighbors stuck around last night, and were impressed by the orange glow on the horizon.

If he leaves, Burns said he’d grab his guns, fishing poles and his bird and dog and join his wife and kids who left Thursday night. He said he’s leaving his goldfish.

“Hopefully they can ride out until the water starts boiling,” he said.

Nearby, Ellile Roach, 48, was monitoring the fire from her work, Earthcare Landscape Service off Keane.

Ash from the fire is falling and helicopters overhead are dropping water on the blaze.

“It’s gotten worse in about the last hour, I would say. The helicopters haven’t stopped dropping water,” she said.

“If we’re told to evacuate, the plan is to grab the computers, the important documents and the employees’ paychecks,” she added. “Today is payday.”

Johnny Imbriali, 50, and his daughter, Natalie, watched the plumes of smoke grow safe in his Ford pickup at the intersection of Keane Avenue and Inez Road. The fire was moving fast, and he said he didn’t have good information about where its burning or which way its moving.

He said he has no plans to leave. His family has animals – sheep, donkeys, turkeys – they need to protect.

“I’m staying here,” Imbriali said. “I’m not leaving. I’ve got a whole farm over here.”

Skip in Skip
x

Embed

x
CLOSE

Jack Bernsen drives down Inez Road to save belongings from his home and his family's nursery Friday, April 21, 2017. Ryan Mills/Naples Daily News

Just before 1 p.m., Jack Bernsen hopped onto the back of a friend’s motorbike and headed down Inez Road to rescue what he could from his home and his family’s nursery, which are threatened by brush fires burning in Golden Gate Estates.

He came out with an expensive tractor and a car full of his family’s belongings.

“My main concerns are, is my house going to burn down, are my neighbors going to be OK, are our trees and everything going to burn up, and how is that going to play out with insurance?” said Bernsen, 24. “I know I don’t have insurance on my mobile home, so I’ll definitely lose that.”

“Hopefully everybody’s OK,” he added. “That’s the No. 1, I guess, concern.”

Most residents and employees of the local businesses that operate off Keane Avenue, deep in Golden Gate Estates, have evacuated from the fires. Daily News reporters saw a large wall of flames approaching homes at the end of Keane Avenue.

Bernsen said he saw heavy smoke and flames when he went back to his family’s property. Eventually, authorities came by with loudspeakers ordering people to flee the area.

“That’s when I really started hustling,” Bernsen said. “I’ve packed everything I possibly could in the car.”


2159 5 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://nplsne.ws/2pLL6Q2