Collier County declares local state of emergency for fires

GOLDEN GATE ESTATES, Fla. Collier County commissioners approved a local state of emergency Tuesday, paving the way for more funding to address wildfire recovery.

A local state of emergency doesn’t necessarily represent imminent danger. The move, in tandem with the statewide state of emergency that Gov. Rick Scott declared two weeks ago, is designed to provide aid for relief efforts from fires that have burned thousands of acres.

The 30th Avenue brush fire, which destroyed four homes and forced the evacuation of some 7,000 others, is up to 75 percent containment and remains an estimated 7,068 acres, the Florida Forest Service said Tuesday afternoon.

The County Commission also officially approved a burn ban that county manager Leo Ochs declared Friday.

A heavy brush fire season has menaced the county, which dealt with a more than 7,000-acre blaze in the Picayune Strand State Forest last month that also destroyed four homes.

Last week’s 30th Avenue fire was a threat not just for human residents but for animals as well. The NGALA Wildlife Preserve, which was within the evacuation zone, sustained extensive damage to the woods on its property and had to evacuate animals and cancel events.

Photo via Craig Weinbaum / Facebook

NGALA CEO Donovan Smith was hospitalized with second-degree burns after he stayed back to protect a rhinoceros on the property that wasn’t able to be evacuated.

“When they first told me I had to go back there and protect a rhinoceros, I thought
it was a joke,” Greater Naples Fire Rescue District Capt. Craig Weinbaum said.

Weinbaum took a picture of the rhino and posted it to his Facebook page, lending a moment of levity to the rescue effort that kept the animal safe.

“My kids thought it was incredible, animal lovers that they are,” Weinbaum said. “It was a pretty neat part of this terrible situation.”

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