A raging brush fire in southwest Florida destroyed nine houses and forced the evacuation of 7,000 homes Friday, authorities say.
Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement Friday that he deployed the guard and five UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to help fight 100-foot flames in Collier County. Officials said one brush fire has grown to nearly 5,000 acres and is 10 percent contained. Roughly 100 deputies went door to door Friday.
Florida Forest Service's Clark Ryals said the fire is moving northwest up Inez Road, where it's caught three homes so far. The News-Press reports an exotic animal sanctuary is also in danger.
A rhino at the Ngala Wildlife Preserve was rescued by firefighters after the owner was unable to get the animal out. The rhino was running around hysterically as thick smoke billowed close by.Crews said once firefighters reached the animal, the rhino calmed down.
Firefighters were able to save the rhino along with two panthers at the sanctuary. The owner was unable to get a giraffe from the preserve.
Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said he saw propane tanks exploding and buildings burning where the fire affected a nursery, chemical warehouse and sod company.
The fire is so massive forestry officials initiated an emergency response plan, activating firefighters from South Florida. The Broward Sheriff's Fire Rescue deployed firefighters to Collier County Friday.
"This type of activation is not unusual based on these current times. And, they will assume assessments and then ask for difference assistance throughout the state," said Asst. District Chief Jason Smith, BSO Fire.
Crews from Miami-Dade, Coral Springs, Davie and Plantation Fire Departments were also deployed to help with the wildfire.
In the central part of the sunshine state, Florida Forest Service personnel are on scene of a brush fire in Indian Lake Estates.
Polk County Fire Rescue confirmed all of Indian Lake Estates is under a mandatory evacuation due to the fire. Fire Rescue confirms several structures are on fire.