Brush fire destroys bulldozer, firefighter escapes injury in Okeechobee County

Posted at 12:12 PM, Apr 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-17 21:48:16-04

A firefighter escaped serious injury when flames scorched a bulldozer working to contain a brush fire in Okeechobee County Sunday, according to the Florida Forest Service.

The fire began in northwest Okeechobee County near NW 144 Ave. and NW 286 St. and eventually spread to 450 acres.

The fire quickly consumed dry brush and grass and threatened several homes, a Florida Forest Service spokesperson said.

“It was scary,” said Fallon Hazellief. Fallon’s home was threatened by the fire. “You’re wondering if your’e going to lose the house and you just want to make sure everyone is safe.”

The quick-moving fire overran and destroyed the bulldozer but a Forest Service firefighter escaped injury thanks to Okeechobee County Fire Rescue which was also helping put out the fire, the Florida Forest Service said. 

It’s an example of the challenges that may lie ahead, given the sheer number and continue threat of fires.

“It’s extraordinarily tough on the equipment… and it’s tough on our people too,” said Tim Elder, the district manager for the Florida Forest Service’s Okeechobee District.

Blaming the dry conditions, Elder says they haven’t seen this kind of fire activity in at least five to ten years.

“A lot of the guys that I have are lucky to have a day off here and there, before they have to return.”

The fire was 80 percent contained by midday Monday.

Although several small outbuildings were destroyed and the community's electrical infrastructure was damaged, no homes were destroyed, the Florida Forest Service said.