Over 3,500 rental cars destroyed by fire at Fort Myers Airport

The vehicles were stored in a grassy field

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
Over 3,500 rental cars burned at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Photo by Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

(Click here to see an updated version of this article, including the fact that dozers built a fireline through the burning cars.)

Yesterday a fire at the Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida destroyed 3,516 rental cars that were stored in an overflow parking area on the east side of Terminal Access Road. Firefighters on the ground were assisted by helicopters dropping water on the flames. The cars were stored in a grassy field, a fact that may have helped the fire spread. Vicki Moreland, communications director for the airport, said even though 3,516 cars burned, another 3,800 cars in the lot were saved. She said the cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal.

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
Over 3,500 rental cars burned at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Photo by Florida Forest Service – Caloosahatchee Forestry Center.

The main road leading to the terminal was closed during the fire but reopened at 11 p.m. Friday. Saturday morning, Florida Forest Service personnel returned to the scene to make sure the fire did not pick back up again, according to Melinda Avni, FFS mitigation specialist.

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office reported that one of their Huey helicopters flown by Chief Pilot Shane Engelauf made over 80 water drops on the fire.

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
Over 3,500 rental cars burned at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Photo by Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.
rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
A small pyrocumulus cloud forms over the convection column of smoke as over 3,500 rental cars burned at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida. Photo by Sean Tully, April 3, 2020.

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

22 thoughts on “Over 3,500 rental cars destroyed by fire at Fort Myers Airport”

        1. You are wrong. The early reports on April 3 were that 100 cars burned. On April 4 Vicki Moreland, communications director for the airport, confirmed (as I wrote), that 3,516 cars were destroyed or damaged by the fire and about 3,850 remained undamaged. More information.

  1. Why are 7,000 cars being stored at an airport not that large anyway?
    Any moron should think-grass burns and when it burns with a car parked above it, the plastic fuel tank will melt and the gasoline will ignite.
    Fire travels upward and outward! Duh–
    What probably happened was a rental car was run hot for whatever reason. Taken to the lot and parked with the catalytic converter still hot and parked in higher dry grass. Catalytic converter ignited grass and the domino effect began.
    Really doesn’t take a lot of brain power, but from my extended time doing business with Enterprise, not surprising to me. Brain power of a thousand employees= 1/2 brain.

    1. Park em bumper to bumper and side by side,,,,,leave no aisles between them. Oh, and dont check the employees to make sure they dont have cigarettes on them while making runs between the lot and the terminal.

    2. My thoughts exactly and with people not travelling, I would imagine a glut of rental cars and had to be stored somewhere.

    3. Because NOBODY is travelling and the lots are full. RSW is a major airport yet generally most vehicles are out on rentals.

    4. I’m guessing because our tourists have returned home early from spring break because of COVID19. I could be wrong but after 33 years I can report there are only a fraction of cars around than usual a week before Easter. The roads look more like the dead of summer with a major hurricane bearing down.

    5. Have you seen the airport lately every blacktop parking lot and even the old terminal lots are completely full the airport employees lot was closed for employees who can now use the parking at the terminal so not to take shuttles well the employees parking lot is also filled with rental cars
      Sorry I don’t think you know the whole picture you had a mass run on returns of people leaving to get home during this virus as early as six weeks ago and no way to keep up with the rate of returns so yes they started using unpaved lots which was mowed first to low the grass
      So maybe cut them some slack

    6. No one is going anywhere. No one knew this situation could or would happen. The cars are usually in rental situations and on the road. No one could imagine the rental companies would have to park all of their cars. What is so difficult to understand.

  2. 80 bucket drops from a Type 3 helicopter, 3,156 vehicles @ $25K each = $$$$$$$
    VLAT on call in state, 1 drop of 2,000+ gallons, crushing the fire front (and a few cars) = $$$
    Makes it obvious where we should be investing funds…

  3. Unfortunately due to this COVID-19 many car rental agencies have too many vehicles that are not being rented at this time. They are struggling to find space to place them. Another area in our nation that is suffering that we overlook simply because it’s not affecting our day to day lives.

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