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Crews monitor brush fire in suburban West Palm Beach

Posted at 4:56 PM, Apr 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-09 11:24:32-04

A massive brush fire sent people out of their homes in suburban West Palm Beach on Saturday.

On Sunday morning, firefighters remained at the site, extinguishing multiple areas to prevent rekindling. Benoist Farms Road and Pioneer Road were closed Sunday morning and Southern Boulevard remained open.

Firefighters have been monitoring hot spots on the fire, which started near the 8300 block of Whispering Oaks Way around 4:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

The blaze got so bad that crews shut down Southern Boulevard as a precaution between Lyons and Benoist Farms roads. All lanes were eventually reopened to traffic.

"It happened out of nowhere," said Peggy Rowe-Linn, who had to evacuate from her home.

Windy and dry conditions were not making it easy for firefighters. Smoke could be seen from miles away blowing over the Florida Turnpike.

"It's in an area that has a large section of wildlife preserve scrub area to keep the natural look and that's the challenge that we're working with here," said Capt. Albert Borroto with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.

Crews evacuated dozens of families from two neighborhoods. Residents were asked to turn their sprinkler systems on to help keep the ground around their homes saturated and prevent the spread of fire.

"Unfortunately it happened. Now my hope is to get home as soon as possible," said Rosival Sobrinho, who couldn't get back into his home with his family.

Firefighters said they evacuated so many homes out of an abundance of caution.

"Our priority here is making sure it is safe for them to come back, we don't want to prematurely allow them back in. And then have to evacuate them again," said Capt. Borroto.

Some neighbors said they had to evacuate by foot.

"My daughter had to walk out of the neighborhood because they wouldn't let her drive the car out of the neighborhood," said Rowe-Linn.

Crews explained the reason why.

"Once we started laying our hoses down we ran across some residents that were leaving -- obviously in their vehicles -- that ran over our hose. Unfortunately when it gets run over, it's no longer usable and that's why we're not allowing any vehicles on the roadways," said Capt. Borroto.

Fire rescue says two homes caught on fire.

"Our fire fighters were able to quickly put them out. There's no significant damage to them, they're not uninhabitable," said Capt. Borroto.

No injuries have been reported.

At one point, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue station No. 34 was even in the path of the blaze. A team of local Red Cross volunteers were also called to the scene to provide assistance to more than 100 fire fighters and first responders battling the flames.

"Once that wind dies down is when we can do a lot of work, get in there and put lines in. And fire rescue can get in with their brush trucks with water," said Scott Peterich, with Florida Forest Service. "Until we get these soaking rains, our county is really a tinder box."

The fire was 100 percent contained Monday morning.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue tweeted Sunday that access to the neighborhoods will remain limited to residents who live in the area.

No word yet on how this fire started.