Golden Gate Estates fire at 900 acres, 75% contained; 2 homes destroyed, 2 damaged

Published: May 22, 2021 4:07 PM EDT
Updated: May 23, 2021 5:56 PM EDT

A brush fire that sparked Saturday afternoon around 3 p.m. in Collier County had grown to 1,500 acres and was 20% contained Sunday afternoon. Now, Florida Forest Service is saying the fire is down to 900 acres and is 75% contained.

Two homes have been lost and two others have been damaged.

Florida Forest Service said Sunday the perimeter of the fire is 12th Avenue SE to the north, DeSoto Boulevard to the east, 16th Avenue SE running to 18th Avenue SE to Tobias Street to the south and Tobias Street to the west.

Greater Naples Fire had set up a voluntary evacuation area for the west side of DeSoto Blvd. from 12th Ave. SE to 16th Ave. SE to the canal, from the canal west past Everglades to Woodland Estates Road from 12th Ave. SE to 20th Ave. SE, and west of Woodland Estates Road to Tobias St. from Frangipani Avenue to Tobias St. These were set up Saturday and have been lifted as of Sunday at 4 p.m.

This is in addition to those being advised to evacuate west of DeSoto Blvd. on 12th, 14th and 16th avenues SE.

Officials said Sunday morning that evacuation areas did not change overnight. They are allowing evacuees to return to check on their homes with a valid ID and ask those who don’t live in the area to avoid it so that crews can work. Only residents are being allowed into the closed-off areas.

Everglades and DeSoto boulevards are closed from Golden Gate Boulevard to I-75.

The Collier County call center was activated Sunday morning to answer questions regarding the fire. The phone numbers for that call center are 311 or 239-252-8444.

An FFS helicopter will be assisting with the fire Sunday, along with multiple local cooperating aircraft. FFS warned drone operators not to fly near wildfires or face civil penalties and criminal prosecution.

Florida Forest Service held a press briefing Sunday afternoon to update the fire. Watch a replay below or by clicking here.

Melinda Avni is a mitigation specialist with Florida Forest Service and stressed that those living in the evacuation zones should leave so firefighters can focus on battling the flames.

“When there’s traffic in an area where you have multiple units working to respond to a fire, it becomes one other obstacle that they need to navigate to most effectively and efficiently contain and put out the blaze,” Avni said.

“So every other thing that must be contended with is a potential distraction or potential for a secondary incident that may hinder or prevent a fully effective response.”

One of the families asked to evacuate is the Samadh family. They shared with WINK News videos of them driving past the flames. They also showed the plume of smoke and flames from their home reaching just three doors down from where the fire started.

Marcus Samadh said he and his family were watching a movie when they began to smell the smoke from inside of their home. Once they saw the flames, he feared the worst was to come.

“I thought my house was going to be gone, man! I really did. Didn’t really know how to feel about that, you know what I mean? I was just stunned. Is this real? Am I dreaming?” Samadh said.

Collier County sheriff’s deputies are assisting Greater Naples Fire and FFS with the voluntary evacuation. They have one air rescue unit on scene.

FPL cut power in the area to help fire crews but power was restored overnight.

Several people were also treated by EMS with minor injuries from smoke inhalation, but most weren’t taken to the hospital, according to the fire district.

This is a developing story and will be updated as new information comes in.