Friday, May 2, 2008

Fire threatens homes in Viera, but firefighters come up big; the real casualty of the blaze? palm trees

Firefighters spray water at the fire, above, and at the trees on someone's lawn, below.


Update: My employer linked to my blog from the home page. The Offlede is going mainstream. Uh oh. They also made a photo gallery with my shots.

When I got out of work around 1 a.m., I heard that a fire had burned 60 acres in Viera. It sounded like a good photo op, so I set out to chase down some flashy lights and orange glows.

Driving along Murrell Road, I saw several TV crews doing pretty little standups with the orange sky silhouetting the homes in the distance. So I knew Murrell Road wasn't where the real action was. As usual, the TV guys were miles from the scene. They dared not get their feet wet.

So, I found my way to Starling Way, a little street in a large subdivision with expansive, expensive homes. The fire was burning the pines, palms and palmettos just feet from the buildings. Poor trees.

Then, I got my feet wet. A sprinkler came on as I walked by one house. It soaked my pants, my socks and my shoes.

But I didn't care. I snapped photos like crazy and forgot about it. The heat from the fire dried my clothes anyway.

A group of about 10 youngish-looking individuals were watching the flames behind the homes. Some said they live in the area. Others were the residents' friends who just came to watch a good show.

But apparently, someone forgot the marshmallows. Or do they just not do that here in Florida? Does anybody know about s'mores?

The firefighters stood around and watched as the flames shot 30 feet into the air. They occasionally soaked a tree on someone's lawn or the screening around several of the homes' covered patios. Luckily, the wind was blowing the fire away from the homes and into land that had already burned: It had nowhere to go.

The fire burned southward behind the homes lining Starling Way. It probably burned 400 yards in the few hours I was there.

When it reached a pond, the men stood between the blaze and the marshy area. They spritzed it a few times with their mighty hose. A large stand of palms and palmettos crackled into flames. It reminded me of that bonfire I went to a few years ago when the Red Sox won the World Series.

But that was all. Around 3:15 a.m., there were only small flames, and the firefighters were ready to ship out.

The owner of the house closest to where the fire stopped was grateful.

"I'm so glad it didn't go any farther," he said. "We have a beautiful view of the pond, and I wouldn't want the fire to ruin it."

"Thank you, guys," he said to the firefighters.

"Oh, no problem," one firefighter said. "That was easy."

I took 858 photos, or 1.73 gigabytes of disk space on my new Mac. Looks like an external hard drive is in my future. I'll post video later. I should get sleep first, though.

My first shot when I arrived. This is where I started to get my feet wet.

A couple of concerned residents near one of the more modest homes of the neighborhood. The flames were only feet away, but the wind was blowing them away from the homes.

People, including myself, got close enough to roast a few marshmallows. It was quite safe because of the wind.

One of the younger residents climbed onto his roof to snap a photo. He probably got better shots up there than I did on earth.

One of the less modest homes here. Just after I shot this, the flame flared up two houses down the street, threatening a house. These people scattered when that happened.

Firefighters hosed down the screens of this house's patio area.

Viera = hell?

Nope. Not hell. Firefighters don't go there. Viera, you're off the hook.

The fire brought together a bunch of teens from the neighborhood. Some good, clean Thursday night entertainment! I was talking with a homeowner in the area, and she asked what caused the fire. I didn't know, and then one of these guys said that teens had set the recent brush fires in Brevard County. He said he had no part in any of them, though.

I think the teens had more fun taking photos of the fire than I did. This one used his cell phone.

The burning carcass of a palm tree. RIP. ... Not.

This was the firefighters' last stand. Once this palm was dead, it was done. Good night.

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