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Chief: Airport rental car fire was ‘recipe for disaster’

A fire chief who responded to the massive fire on Friday at Southwest Florida International Airport said it was one of the biggest in his 30-year career.

The fire engulfed thousands of rental cars in a grassy lot near the airport, emitting thick smoke that could be seen dozens of miles away.

But the chief in charge, Tracy Young, saw the flames up close and personal – and made the call to dispatch 300 men and women to the scene.

“I’ve been doing this for about 30 years,” Young said. “It will be a career fire for a lot of firefighters out there that responded.”

Young, of the Lee County Port Authority Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Department, said it was a recipe for disaster.

“Between the wind and the densely compacted cars … we had to really struggle with trying to match the amount of heat with the amount of water we needed to put it out.”

WINK News asked Young about whether he or anyone else questioned having so many cars parked on dry grass in near drought-like conditions.

“This was a unique situation as far as the season ending abruptly and then needing a place to park the cars, and we did our part making sure that the fire lanes are put in, but to say I would say any type of discouragement, I don’t know that I would go that far. We did express some concern.”

Today, he’s grateful to every one of the 300 firefighters who responded and made it out safely.

“At the end of the day, nobody got significantly hurt or killed and we were able to save more than we lost, and I think that’s a win.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but the state fire marshal does not believe it was suspicious.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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