Stubborn Pinellas brush fire started by trash - WNCT

Stubborn Pinellas brush fire started by trash

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Pinellas Park -

Just when firefighters thought they had a handle on a wind-swept brush fire, it would flare up again.

At the height of the battle, 20 units from half a dozen departments did their best to get water on hot spots just south of Ulmerton Road. 

"They cooled the spots down but then the embers with the wind would blow it to another area, and obviously its very dry out here today," said Pinellas Park Fire Department Spokesman Lt. Gary Berkheimer. 

For a time, fire commanders worried the nearby Hampton Inn and other nearby structures could be in danger, but some well-placed ladder trucks and engine companies prevented trouble.

The fire burned brush that was cut and stacked a year ago by Showtime Speedway owner Robert Yoho.  Yoho is impressed with the way firefighters got water to the area. 

"The way the fire department has took one truck, staged another truck a hundred foot, ran a hose to that, and leap frogged it down to the fire, then up the ladder and out the thing, rally amazing in how they work as a team," said Yoho.

Pinellas Park fire investigators say this fire started when a driver for Waste Management came into its waste transfer station with a load of cardboard that he thought was smoldering.  He dumped it on the ground, and it caught the brush on fire.

"Any little bit of wind just fuels that and it just spreads it so fast and its hard to get ahead of it," said Lt. Berkheimer. 

A Sunstar ambulance crew treated a Largo firefighter for heat exhaustion.  Speedway owner Yoho provided a front-end loader to the firefighting effort. 

"All I could to is keep bringing 'em water and Gatorade and support 'em and don't let 'em pass out," said Yoho.

Strong winds and dry brush fueled this fire. Fire officials say what's needed now is a strong rainstorm to reduce the fire risk.

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