By Doug Ohlemeier, The Packer
The fires, which scorched more than 17,000 acres in 14 Florida counties, were centered in Palm Bay, Fla., and came near an onion broker and trading office.
Doug Bournique, executive director of the Indian River Citrus League, Vero Beach, Fla., said the fires that have engulfed numerous homes haven’t threatened citrus groves along I-95 from Vero Beach south to Fort Pierce, Fla.
“The fires have been highly isolated to the I-95 corridor,” Bournique said May 13. “They are just in the Palm Bay area, where there are no citrus groves of any size.”
Bournique said he saw fires along the interstate, which was closed at one time because smoke limited visibility of drivers.
WITHIN A HALF MILE
Wildfire flames on May 14 were within a half mile of Palm Bay-based Sweet Onion Trading Co.’s office, said Patty Macy, sales assistant.
“We have been watching the smoke, and choppers and tankers drop water as the fire trucks go by,” she said May 14. “They’re getting it under control.”
Macy said the fires haven’t harmed or disrupted Sweet Onion Trading, but office workers were keeping an eye on the situation and had evacuation plans in case winds shifted.
Macy said none of the homes of the broker’s staff had been directly threatened. Some homes, however, were in the fire’s way earlier in the week, she said.
According to news reports, the fire caused at least $10 million in damages to nearly 200 Palm Bay area homes.
As the fires spread on the East Coast, just north of the Indian River growing region, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to help fight the fires and assist with evacuations. Drought and high winds contributed to the fire.