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Brush fire in Indian River County displaces people experiencing homelessness

Smoke lingering from fire, which officials estimated was about 10 to 12 acres large
Brush fire in Indian River County. April 7, 2024.png
Posted at 1:47 PM, Apr 07, 2024

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — Abby Klaus couldn't watch firefighters continue to put out a fire in a vacant commercial lot in Vero Beach on Sunday afternoon.

"My home, it got burned," she said. "I lost everything a long time ago last year and I worked so hard to get where I am."

Klauss said she ran away from the fire on Saturday morning at 27th Avenue Southwest, where she said people who are experiencing homelessness use it as a place to shelter. The Indian River County Emergency Services Department said it's the same location where a brush fire forced officials to spend a "prolonged time" putting out the fire and allowed smoke to "linger in the area" in a news release.

"My eyes were burning and I couldn't breathe," Klauss said. "I just really prayed to God that my study wouldn't burn down because it took me all year to get everything back."

She said she works as a manager at Claire's and is taking classes at a college. Klauss said it was frustrating because she was almost "on her feet again."

"I'm trying. I'm trying and coming here and actually seeing where I'm at and knowing it's all burned," she said. "And it's just sad and it sucks."

Abby Klaus cries after learning all she's got left burned in brush fire, April 7, 2024
A tearful Abby Klaus tells WPTV that she was just getting back on her feet again when everything she had burned in a brush fire in Indian River County.

WPTV's Ethan Stein smelled smoke for hours and struggled to breathe in some locations. He also saw burnt leaves all over the ground.

Neighbors said they also saw burnt leaves in their backyard and drove by the scene due to the smoke from the fire.

Dave Lage, who said he works a construction job, said he didn't know about the fire until he got home from work. He said he also lives in the vacant lot with a friend and a woman, who is pregnant.

"We work every day and can't afford a place to rent," Lage said. "So I'm saving up money, but now I have to spend money on a hotel room."

He said his bike and clothes (three sets of pants, shorts and shirts) are likely gone as well.


Firefighters concerned over coming wildfire season

Jon Shainman
4:13 PM, Apr 07, 2024

The Indian River County Sheriff's Office assisted with traffic control in the area of 27th Avenue between Fifth Street Southwest and Ninth Street Southwest (Oslo Road), south of Vero Beach.

The lane closures were expected to last for several hours, the sheriff's office said.

"Please be patient and use alternate routes to avoid any traffic delays," the sheriff's office posted on Facebook.

John Capobianco, who owns a pizza shop near the area called Caps Pizza, said he closed for the day because of the fire. He said he's thankful crews were able to stop the fire from crossing the road, where his business is located.

Wildfire in Indian River County. April 7, 2024.jpg
Wildfire in Indian River County.