12 homes, 33 outbuildings destroyed in 36th Avenue Southeast brush fire that continues to burn
A large brush fire that continues to burn in Collier County has so far destroyed 12 homes and 33 outbuildings, officials report.
The structures have been destroyed by the 36th Avenue Southeast brush fire — now burning for about six days — in Eastern Collier County, according to data released by the Greater Naples Fire Rescue District on Monday.
“There's a lot of folks that live out there pretty remotely so things could surface, but we are very, very confident that our number is right there for now,” Chief Kingman Schuldt said.
The brush fire began in Golden Gate Estates on May 13 and at one point separated into about six brush fires.
Returning to rubble: Golden Gate Estates fire victims lose their homes to the blaze
It continued to burn Monday at 8,663 acres and was 50% contained as of Monday afternoon, according to the Florida Forest Service.
The fire district completed a damage assessment over the weekend, he said.
Previous coverage: Wet weather could aid firefighting efforts in Golden Gate Estates
How to help
Jill Palmer, executive director for Florida's Coast to Heartland Chapter of the American Red Cross, said her organization has directly assisted eight families in Collier County that could not return to their homes because of severe damage or the wildfire destroyed them.
The eight families comprised of three children and 13 adults and have been provided with food, health and mental health services, financial support and temporary lodging, Palmer said.
When evacuation orders were in place due to the wildfire last week, the American Red Cross assisted 26 displaced residents and helped find them hotel rooms in which to shelter, Palmer said.
The American Red Cross also connects displaced individuals with other organizations that may be able to help in the long term, she said.
“All year long we operate off donations from individuals to help with disaster relief,” Palmer said.
Although direct donations to individuals impacted by the brush fire cannot be made through the American Red Cross, some families impacted have set up GoFundMe pages.
A local off-road vehicle group called Prodigy Automotive & Offroad has also been collecting donations to send directly to the brush fire victims.
Holding the fire line
Residents in the area of the brush fire still going to be seeing a lot of operations and moving pieces, Allen said.
"Current operations include improving and holding the current fire lines, and we will be conducting mop up for the next several days,” Florida Forest Service Caloosahatchee District Manager Sean Allen said. “What that means is we will continue to expand on our fire lines.”
There is always the potential for the fire to grow even if it is contained in areas, and there is still a significant amount of work to be done to improve existing fire lines, Allen said.
A southerly wind flow is beginning to increase the humidity and chances of rain the area, he said.
“By no means does that mean we need to let our guard down,” Allen said. “Chances for rain are staying kind of low and the potential for fires is still extreme at this time. Until we get a significant amount of rain, our drought index is going to remain high."
Collier County Commissioner Bill McDaniel said even as the fire is contained in certain areas and evacuation orders are not currently in place, residents need to stay vigilant and be prepared to evacuate.
“On a moment's notice this thing can jump because fire knows no bounds,” McDaniel said. “Our first responders are doing an amazing job.”
Nikki Fried, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said Florida has already seen significant damages from wildfires in the panhandle, the Everglades and in Polk County this season.
“We are at the height of our fire season,” Fried said. “It's really important that every single person out there, regardless of where you live, that you are heeding all of your warnings in your local areas. We have significant drought in central and south Florida."
Residents should not be burning trash under drought conditions and need to be aware of their surroundings while using outdoor grills, especially with Memorial Day coming up, Fried said.
That means making sure grills are 10 feet away from structures with no branches above them or debris around them, she said.
“I'm really asking the citizens of the state of Florida to please be conscious of the surroundings around you,” Fried said. "The last thing we want to do is not only start fires but put these individuals (firefighters) in harm's way.”