Storms bring much needed rain, but lightning sparks fire concerns

Posted at 11:15 PM, Jun 06, 2024

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — The severe weather can bring much-needed water, but the lightning is sparking concern.

"Even with the rains coming now you have lighting and our trees are very dry," said Kristine Stauffer who lives in the Stuart West & Cobblestone community.

That's the neighborhood that was impacted by a brush fire last week that burned about 250 acres, forcing 7 houses to evacuate.

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"I know they still couldn't sleep at night people were very worried about the fire starting up again," said Stauffer. 

She said she didn't have to evacuate but that the community helped feed the families affected and the first responders.

"Tremendous outpour of support, whether it's with money, meals, making sure that everybody that evacuated had meals brought to them," said Stauffer. "Someone brought 40 hot subs to the responders, pizzas, tacos, doughnuts, the list goes on and on."

A week after the fire there are still pillars of burnt trees and the smell of smoke still lingers in the air.

"It's overwhelming, I don't even know where to start, it's very emotional," said Stauffer.

She said after the fire, her family discussed evacuation plans and emergency supplies, but they're now worried a fire may start up again.

Thursday evening storms popped up through the Treasure Coast with at least 6 lightning strikes.

"It's a double-edged sword, we really like the soaking rains that come through but having the lightning strikes can also pose a problem for us," said Captain Tom Reyes with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue. "We're getting to that time of the year where that drought index is increasing and we're getting into severe drought conditions. It happens every year, I think it's a little earlier this year than usual."

He said during these conditions, they double up on the crews that respond to a brush fire.

"Brush on the ground is going to catch fire quicker and not only does it catch fire, but the fire will also run faster," said Reyes.

"What's your message to residents right now? What can they do to protect themselves?" asked WPTV reporter Joel Lopez.

"That area starting about 20 feet outside of your house, you want to make sure that's clear of dry brush"

He said PBCFR has brush trucks all over the county and are ready to help neighboring counties if a fire breaks out.

Stauffer said she's thankful for the overwhelming amount of first responders that worked through the night.

"We would have probably lost the whole front end of our community if they didn't show up as fast as they did," said Stauffer.

As of Thursday evening Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties were under a burn ban by the Florida Forest Service.