Collier Co family escapes fire near home. Neighbors prep, remember fires of years past

People in Collier County are doing what they can to make sure their loved ones are safe, as thousands of acres burn near home in Collier County Thursday.

Foster parents Luis Lorenzo and Aloima Kata say it’s a miracle their family is safe. They were able to evacuate and escape the flames near their home.

“It was scary,” Lorenzo said. “But God is good.”

That was after encroaching flames came inches from their home with Lorenzo and their seven children inside.

“Everything is burning so fast, so I think, ‘What can I do for my kids?’” Lorenzo said. “So I pick just my family, no things no nothing. No dress, nothing. Just my kids, my mom, and we’re going out.”

Meanwhile, Kata, a nurse at NCH, rushed home to find her street blocked with fire trucks and multiple crews battling the flames.

”It was so close and so aggressive, so fast,” Kata said.

It forced neighbors to escape.

”By the time we were leaving, the fire was on both sides already,” said. “So we had to drive through the fire.”

Evacuating during a pandemic, some families didn’t know where to find shelter.

”We spent the night at our church,” neighbor Joachim McDonald said.

Kata says if her husband didn’t work from home right now, she doesn’t know how her mother and kids would have made it out.

“They wouldn’t have had a car to go,” Kata said.

But they’re still staying positive.

”We’ve gone through so much,” Kata said. “And every time something bad happens, something great comes out of it.”

With a massive fire impacting many neighborhoods in Collier County this week, a lot of people have needed to evacuate their homes. Fires are in the same area that burned three years ago, forcing many neighbors to flee their homes. We spoke to neighbors who know what it’s like to evacuate.

Homeowners in Collier County are grateful to all the firefighters from near and far who continue to respond to nearby fires to protect their homes Thursday.

Neighbor Evie Garcia isn’t taking any chances this time around. If fire comes near her home, she and her family are out of there.

“Three years ago, this was the exact same thing that happened,” Garcia said. “The fire started out there and then it just jumped like how did yesterday or late last night. Three years ago, I didn’t have my twins. I have my twins now with the six-year-old so I’m not trying play any games.”

While no flames are immediately threatening Garcia’s home Thursday, the smoke was impossible to ignore.

“The bags are packed,” Garcia said. “Everything’s loaded.”

That’s the same for neighbor Stephanie Manchette, who says the fires of 2017 are not forgotten.

“I was like not again,” Manchette said.

When she heard the fire was coming closer to her home, she knew she had to get her parents ready and start packing up.

“What do you do, you know?” Manchette said. “Got to figure out where to go and everything and but is time to go rush to get everything that you want to take with you.”

Making matters worse with all the precautions in place because of the pandemic, huge brush fires are the last thing these families needed right now.

“We’re just going to wait and see what they say because I don’t wanna evacuate,” Garcia said. “And then where are we going to go, you know?”

Our crew has been in the field as witnesses to hot spots that continue flare up, as firefighters patrolled and worked to put them out.

The scenes continued to change, with different hot spot areas and new evacuation zones. So the best advice is to be ready.

See our latest updates for Collier County fires, evacuations and more below

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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