Firefighters save homes near Bayport, FL

Photo: Will Vragovic, Times

A lightning-caused fire that started in a marsh near Bayport, Florida on Wednesday night burned over 1,200 acres before firefighters brought it under control. The fire had been knocked down by midday Thursday but strong winds from a thunderstorm that afternoon pushed the fire into an urban interface area and threatened structures.

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Don Ruths, a wildlife mitigation specialist and public information officer for the Withlacoochee Forestry Center, said the fire broke out Wednesday about a half-mile north of Cortez Boulevard near Pine Island.

The fire appeared to be under control by midday Thursday, but gusting winds from an approaching thunderstorm flared the flames and pushed them south toward Mary’s Fish Camp where the fire jumped the road.

Shifting winds steered the flames west toward Bayport, forcing firefighters to battle the blaze on several fronts.

“The winds were kicking our butts,” Hernando firefighter Scott Carbone recalled Friday.

Bayport Inn manager Deanna Myers said at around 6 p.m. the 40-year-old restaurant and bar was nearly surrounded by the blaze. Employees and customers watched as firefighters raced to wet down the building’s wood siding.

“You’ve got to give those guys credit for the great job they did,” Myers said. “They never stopped battling.”

By Friday night the fire was 90 percent contained.

Photo: Bob East III, Hernando Today