PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - Fire officials are still investigating what caused a brush fire Wednesday near Bermont Road in Punta Gorda. The fast-moving flames, fanned by the wind, burned some 500 acres and destroyed two mobile homes. One particular home could have easily been the third had it not been built "firewise."
"You see all this destruction around it," Florida Forest Service Wildfire Mitigation Specialist Patrick Mahoney said. "It survived."
The grass surround the home is black and charred. It shows the flames crept toward the home, even burning right up against the wall, but because of the way the home was built, that's as far as the fire got.
"There is nothing for the fire to continue to feed on, and so it goes out," Mahoney said.
Mahoney has helped dozens of neighborhoods achieve Firewise recognition. He showed us why the home in Punta Gorda is still standing.
"They've got it up on a block foundation, so there is no way the fire could get up in there," Mahoney said. "The metal roof, even if it had leaf litter on it, it's still not going to burn it."
"The steps are on rock," he continued. "They have lattice work around, to keep everything from getting underneath. They went the extra mile and put a screen behind it, and it's metal screening."
Mahoney says the Myakka River District, which includes Charlotte, DeSoto, Sarasota, Manatee and Hardee counties, is the driest in the state right now. Some inexpensive Firewise changes could be the difference between keeping your home and losing it.
"They're kind of rare, especially out in places like this just because a lot of people just don't think this would happen to them in their area," Mahoney said.
If your home is already built, you can protect yourself by keeping your roof and gutters clean, using heavier mulch, like Cypress mulch or by keeping grass watered. You can find more tips to make your home and neighborhood Firewise at: http://www.firewise.org/information/who-is-this-for/homeowners.aspx