CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Crews on Wednesday responded to two separate woods fires in Clay County, one of which was burning very close to homes in a Middleburg neighborhood, the Florida Forest Service said.
About 5:45 p.m., two forestry bulldozers and one spotter plane were sent to a 5-acre brush fire near a subdivision off Pine Ridge Parkway, just west of State Road 23, according to the Forest Service.
Over a span of a couple hours, the blaze grew to 6-10 acres in size. Forestry officials then began burn out operations along Buggy Whip Trail to secure the fire's edge.
As of 9:30 p.m., forestry officials said, the blaze was 80 percent contained.
The fire came within about 100 feet of some of the closest homes, but once the fire lines were cut, the trheat was decreased and residents said they felt much better.
"I was just at home, laying on my bed, when my sister knocks on my door and says, 'Victoria, there's a fire.' And I was like, 'OK. Let's see it," said resident Victoria Reyes. "I'm only 15 and I've seen tornadoes and a bit of a hurricane. This is new. I haven't seen fire this close to me."
When many Pine Ridge residents walked out their doors to get an up-close-look, they found a wall of flames and became faced with the reality that dry, windy conditions were causing the blaze to their threaten homes.
They watched in horror as fire crews battled the flames, trees could be heard crackling as wind gusts pushed the fire closer.
"I'm on pins and needles," said neighbor Becky Geiger. "I've never seen anything like this, so this is new to me and scary."
At one point in the evening, a heavy wind gust caused flames to get so intense that Clay County sheriff's deputies ordered residents and onlookers standing across the street to move away to a safe distance.
"Oh my God, I just hope it doesn't come by our house and (I'm) scared for these people whose homes are right by the flames," said neighbor Sarah Deitch. "We just moved here from Chicago so this is all new to us."
At last check, no injuries or property damage had been reported in the Middleburg brush fire.
In the southern part of the county, forestry and Clay County personnel responded just before 5:30 p.m. to a 15-acre wildfire off U.S. 17 near Crowell Road in Green Cove Springs.
In less than 30 minutes, the fire had grown to 40 acres and eight bulldozers began plowing fire lines.
As of 9:30 p.m., the Forest Service said, that fire was 100 percent contained at 36 acres. Forestry officials said they believe the blaze started at the railroad tracks