Wildfire evacuatees return home; still putting out hot spots in woods

Posted at 11:50 PM, Mar 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-09 23:56:09-05

Ron Alleman is grateful that his house - and all the others in the Forest Glen Golf and Country Club - are still standing. The community at the Southeast corner of Collier and Beck Boulevards was evacuated for 8 hours Tuesday, as flames from the Picayune Strand State Forest wildfire got too close for comfort.

"We're very fortunate," Alleman said. "Other than the stink, we have no damage."

After residents were evacuated around 1 p.m. Tuesday, the blaze swept through wooded areas of Forest Glen. Firefighters battled the flames for hours to keep it from burning any structures. Once they got it under control, residents were allowed to return. 

On Wednesday morning, Alleman was in the woods behind his home on Periwinkle Way with a garden hose, spraying a smoking stump that had him concerned.

"It was pretty well down, except stubborn little places like this," he said.

Fire crews drove through Forest Glen for much of Wednesday, keeping an eye out for flare-ups. Alleman's neighbor Charlie Rodriguez can't believe the flames burned the woods on either side of the homes on Periwinkle Way, missing the houses.

"We lucked out," Rodriguez said.

"The flame jumped, and it took off the tip of my tree over there, and then this was all burning up," he added, gesturing to the charred woods behind his home.

He said that before the fire, he couldn't even walk in those woods. But fire has wiped out all the scrub brush.

"It was scary, because you can see how in-depth it went," said Rodriguez's wife Sophia. "It went like lightning."

Two nearby RV parks, Panther's Walk and Club Naples, were also evacuated Tuesday. None of those homes received any damage either, but several homes on LeBuff Road - which runs between the two RV parks - were destroyed. One home on Benfield Road, one street to the east, was also lost. 

No one was injured, but GoFundMe accounts and relief funds have been set up to help the families who lost their homes recover.