St. Lucie fire is second-largest recorded in county

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — Firefighters are still trying to stomp out remnants of a persistent wildfire that grew from an ember into 359.5 acres, some of which still are smoldering near populated areas, a Florida Forest Service official said Monday.

The fire, named the Heather Wildfire, is second-largest wildfire recorded in St. Lucie County, according to service records dating to 1990.

"While it may be small compared to other fires in (rural) Florida, it is large because it threatened entire subdivisions," said service spokeswoman Melissa Yunas.

Last weekend's rains helped, but to a limited degree, she said. The half inch of water just dampened the surface, leaving dry soil underneath.

While "(the fire area) is 100 percent contained (encircled) it is not completely out," she said.

Firefighters are going into their third week of working at the scene: a long narrow fire that initially spread northeast, from the Indrio Road area. Propelled by gusty winds, it quickly burned through woodlands dotted with rural single-family homes, which were spared. It burned up to, but not into, large subdivisions to the north.

Then the fire turned to the northwest, staying west of U.S. 1 and slowly progressed into a marshy county preserve.

During the weekend, Florida Forest Service workers searched the burned expanse and found smoke still coming from patches in the north end.

If fires did flare up again to the south, near the homes, "It would be nothing like the original wildlife's" billowing flames that spewed sparks before it, igniting new fires in forests littered with pine needles and fallen wood, she said.

Pines trees continue dropping more needles. "There a small chance that the pine needles could catch on fire (if they are near a hot spot)," she said. However, "This wildfire would be small and creeping."

The fire's original source, she said, was a lighting strike on March 22 that hit a tree in woodlands bordering the St. Lucie County International Airport.

Strong winds ignited the embers.

Heather Wildfire

Wildfire update: Status: Contained but some portions continue to smolder.

Location: Northern St. Lucie County, west of U.S. 1.

Size: 359.5 acres

Cause: Lightning

First reported: 2:52 p.m. March 24.

Source: Florida Forestry Service

St. Lucie County's largest wildfires

1. 759 acres: Port St. Lucie wildiifre near Gatlin Boulevard. April 15, 1999

2. 359.5 acres: Heather Wildfire west of U.S. 1. March 24, 2013

3. 300 acres: Del Mundo Wildfire, southwest corner of Indrio Road and U.S. 1. May 9, 2010

Source: Florida Forest Service.

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