FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Smoke remains a major concern Monday morning as a wildfire continued to burn in a marsh northwest of U.S. 1 in the northern part of the county late Sunday.
Motorists are urged to turn on their headlights and drive slowly in the Indrio Road area. Residents with health concerns should close their windows, turn off their vents and contact their doctor if they feel ill.
Residents should be aware of downed power lines and hot spots from the blaze, which at 11:30 p.m. was 90 percent contained. Some residents will be without power; those who are electricity-dependent should contact the North Treasure Coast chapter of the American Red Cross for assistance at 772-562-2549.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation and anyone with information about that was asked to call the Florida Forest Service at 863-462-5160.
Before 7:30 p.m. Sunday, all roads were reopened and some of the estimated 2,500 residents who were evacuated at 4 p.m. began returning to their homes.
The worst hit neighborhood was Heatherway, where two homes suffered significant damage and two homes had minor roof damage. Three sheds were destroyed, including one in the Slash Pine neighborhood. There was no damage to homes in Southwind, Tree Tops and Indian Pines Golf Course.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office evacuated more than 200 homes. Indian Pines Golf Club, Holiday Pines and the Heatherway subdivisions were among the evacuated communities. After the fire jumped U.S. 1, it also threatened homes in the Harbor Branch area.
Parts of U.S. 1, Indrio Road and Old Dixie Highway had been closed because of smoke and fire.
It will be two days before the fire will be 100 percent contained, officials said earlier in the evening.
The fire, which started on property owned by the St. Lucie County Airport, was aided by wind gusts of up to 32 mph.
Displaced residents were encouraged to go to the Sheriff's Office Lakewood Park Substation at 4844 N. Kings Highway in Fort Pierce, where the Red Cross provided assistance.
Retiree Henry Murphy, who was among the displaced residents, has lived in his Holiday Pines home for 25 years. He said he hadn't noticed the smoke cloud from the blaze until a neighbor came to his home to tell him about it.
"About five minutes later, the Sheriff's Office drove by and announced the evacuation over their horn," Murphy said while waiting for news at the corner of U.S. 1 and Indrio Road earlier in the day. "I grabbed my keys and billfold and left."
Other residents waiting outside the cordoned-off area said they had anticipated they would need to find a place to stay Sunday night. Cars were filled with pets and other valuables.
More than 100 people from the Florida Forest Service, St. Lucie County Fire District, Martin County Fire Rescue, Indian River County Fire District, St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, Fort Pierce Police Department, St. Lucie County Emergency Management and Red Cross responded to the scene.