Florida Governor Rick Scott got a first-hand look Friday at the devastation caused by a massive wildfire that started in the Picayune Strand State Forest. Scott also thanked several firefighters in person for their efforts in battling the blaze.
"We want to come out and thank these people," Scott said. "They put their lives at risk."
Scott said the firefighters with the Florida Forest Service, as well as departments throughout Collier County and Southwest Florida, saved hundreds of homes that were in the path of the wildfire near Beck and Collier Boulevards.
"Look at how close this (fire) got to some of these developments," Scott said, referring to charred trees in the woods near the communities of Forest Glen Golf and County Club, as well as Panther's Walk and Club Naples RV Resort. "They did just an outstanding job stopping this fire."
Firefighters were still putting out hotspots Friday morning at the property of Laurence LeBuff, whose home was one of several destroyed in the fire.
"You go look at that house - somebody was living there," Scott said. "Their pictures were probably in that house. They don't have the clothes they need."
Scott also stopped to meet with residents at Club Naples RV Resort, which was evacuated Tuesday when the wildfire was headed its way. Resident Charlie McGibbon said he can't believe that none of the trailers were damaged.
"The forest service, I think they're the unsung heroes," McGibbon said. "I mean they basically saved this park."
Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said that it's crucial to keep dry brush away from rural homes, saying that in this drought, wooded areas are a tinderbox.
"Don't burn trash in your yard, comply with all fire bans," Putnam said Friday. "Don't let the kids play with fireworks. Even watch out for hot mufflers on ATVs and other vehicles in high grass."
Scott said that the area may not be out of the woods yet with brush fires. He said that with the especially dry season, brush fires could continue well into the summer months.