Rotonda resident describes details of 250-acre fire earlier this week

February 28, 2020
By Marcy Shortuse

BY KELLI BECTON – Approximately 250 acres of Rotonda Lakes and Rotonda Sands were destroyed by a wildfire on Monday, Feb. 24. Although it was a close call and there was some exposure damage, firefighters were successful in keeping it from damaging any homes.
The fire was reported on Monday at 11:24 a.m. as a one- or two-acre brush fire.Dry conditions and heavy winds exacerbated the situation, and it quickly became a larger fire.
At 3:22 p.m. it was officially announced as contained. As of 6 p.m. on Monday, Charlotte County Fire and EMS and the Division of Forestry had officially declared that 250 acres were burned.
A total of 40 homes were evacuated, with no injuries reported and no homes lost.
There were two minor firefighter injuries.
Peter Ide, a resident of the area, said the fire started at the junction of Heave Lane and Brig South. He had to
help a family member evacuate from her home in that neighborhood, and said by the time they had her and the dogs loaded up, the fire was surrounding her home.
“I was beyond scary,” he said. “If it had been five more minutes before the firemen got there, the house would have been gone. The fire brigade arrived at her house at the same time, which was around 11:35, less than 12 minutes from the first call. Their response time saved her house and many others. Those heroes saved lives and property. What looks like a horror movie set today bears testimony to the bravery and skill of our fire fighters. That no damage was done to lives or property says it all. Thank you all.”
Ide said the fire wasn’t the only bad thing about the incident … the number of people who came to “watch” the fire was very surprising.
“The amount of idiot, moron sightseers, rubberneckers …call them what you like, I call them far worse,” he said. “I spoke with a fireman who had been working all night, and he said the amount of ‘looky-loos’ was incredible and of no help to anyone. He made the point that the smoke was so bad, the fireman couldn’t see the people. They were putting themselves in danger and hindering the first responders. He said the police had to move them on. Anyone who had no business being there but just wanted to gawp should be ashamed of themselves.” According to Charlotte County Public Information Officer Todd Dunn, there was a big group involved in bringing the fire under control. Boca Grande, Englewood and North Port played major roles. There were two strike teams called in from Lee County, and one from Manatee County as well. The Division of Forestry sent seven units, two helicopters and a fixed-wing airplane. Charlotte County also sent in a helicopter.
PHOTOS BY KELLI BECTON AND SUBMITTED BY CHARLOTTE COUNTY FIRE/EMS