Wildfires Force Thousands to Evacuate in Collier County

Thousands of residents in southwest Florida were forced to evacuate Saturday due to a fast moving wildfire that charred trees, scorched brush, and destroyed homes.

The monstrous fire rapidly spread across 5,500 acres in Collier County Friday night. The latest updates from officials say at least nine homes are destroyed and 10 percent of the fire is contained.

"There was a lot of activity with fire and ashes burning. The end of the street it was terrible. We were worried and my neighbors all evacuated," said John Krimmel, who lives near the fire.

The fire ripped through the area near Naples and was so destructive residents from 7,000 homes were forced to evacuate. Strike teams from Miami-Dade and Broward counties were called in as reinforcements.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

"It's something I never experienced this is something totally mind blowing today to be able to see this," said Tammy Smith.

Smith is an owner of the Ngala Wildlife Preserve and on Friday her business partner was severely burned trying to help some animals including a 5,000-pound rhino who is now safe.

"It was devastating. It was a devastating day," Smith said. "I mean it could have been worse but it was pretty crazy."

As crews work around the clock to put out the flames, officials urged residents to take these evacuation orders seriously so they can do their jobs and keep people safe.

Thousands of residents are displaced and waiting it out— praying their homes are intact as crews work to get this under control.

"Unfortunately, this morning people are waking up to find their homes destroyed and their lives completely changed, which is tragic. for those of you with lost or damaged homes we will be with you every step of the way. Florida is a great state; everybody shows up to help," Gov. Rick Scott said.

The Trump administration has also approved fire management grants allowing the use of federal funds to reimburse the costs from fighting the massive fire here and others in Polk and Lee counties.

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