110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
75 acres burn in Deltona; Volusia County on high alert
Three families evacuated Sunday
By Al Everson
posted Jan 16, 2012 - 2:15:46pm
Deltona firefighters are keeping a close watch on a patch of charred wilderness from which three families were evacuated Sunday afternoon.
"About 1 o'clock, I got a call in Oviedo. It was my daughter, and she said a cop came to the door and told them to leave," said Earl Morgan, as he and his neighbors waited for authorities to give them an all-clear to drive down a rugged dirt trail to their homes. "I saw the column of smoke on the Lake Jessup Bridge. That's how big it was."
Morgan added he was leaving a church in Oviedo when he got the call.
"Thank God for the Fire Department," he said.
While en route to Deltona, he alerted a neighbor via cell phone.
"Earl called me and told me they were evacuating. I was an hour away at the hunt club," said Jerry Flynn, who also wondered if his home would still be standing. "I could see the column of smoke in Orlando, all the way from there. Our houses were in harm's way."
"I have been hunting for three days, and I just want to get back home," he continued.
The fire scorched an estimated 75 acres east of Deltona City Hall. The homes are along a rough trail accessible only by heavy-duty vehicles or on foot. The trees, weeds and grass have become tinder dry because of a lack of rainfall and the cold snaps that brought frost over much of the Sunshine State.
"The lake bottom is switch grass. What used to be water is now fuel," said Flynn, referring to what is in the rear of his secluded acreage.
"I think you're going to find that this was started by somebody back there," he added, noting some of the burned area has been used as a Boy Scout campground.
As he passed by Morgan and Flynn on his way out of the fire zone before sundown, Deltona Deputy Fire Chief Robert Rogers said the cause of the blaze has not yet been determined.
Nevertheless, Deltona firefighters, aided by their counterparts from Orange City and Volusia County Fire Services and personnel from the Florida Division of Forestry, contained and extinguished the flames. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office's Air One helicopter monitored the fire from overhead. Flynn said the firefighters acted none too quickly.
"It [the fire] was about 50 yards from our homes," he said. "We want to definitely thank the Fire Department and the Division of Forestry."
An avid outdoorsman, Flynn is also a professional alligator trapper for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He said the fire "moves wildlife around," as animals try to get away from the flames approaching their own homes.
"I could wake up tomorrow morning and find a rattlesnake in my yard," he added.
While firefighters were busy putting out the Deltona blaze, others of their number were also busy with wildfires elsewhere in Volusia County, especially near New Smyrna Beach.
Unless rain comes often and in sufficient amounts, the wildfire danger will only worsen. Central Florida is now in the middle of its usual dry season, which began in mid-October and ends in late May or early June.
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