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A rash of recent fires has officials urging fire prevention

April 11, 2018
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Lehigh Acres firefighters battled two major fires in the month of March.

One involved three boys who were playing with matches.

The resulting brush fire started in a wooded area just off Carlson Avenue.

The second fire burned 20 acres in the Briarcliff neighborhood of south Fort Myers.

It quickly raged through the community, eventually cutting off electricity to nearby homes. The fire claimed one man's home and his pet, plus three cars.

"Lehigh Acres Fire District sent backup crews to assist in the Briarcliff fire," said Fire Chief Robert DiLallo

After fighting for hours against windy and dry conditions, firefighters were finally able to bring the blaze under control. The South Trail Fire Rescue reported the cause of the fire to be a downed power line due to a fallen branch.

Fire officials warn residents to take the proper precautions to avoid starting brush fires during the dry season.

"Some of the most frequent causes of fires we are seeing here in Lehigh revolve around people pulling over on the side of the roads with low mufflers that spark fires, as well as ATV mufflers and people throwing their hot coals out after cooking on the grill," DiLallo said.

Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District also recommends that residents follow recommendations made by the Florida Forestry Services in regards to creating a defensible space around their homes.

"Firewise landscaping is something very important in Lehigh. Creating that space around your house can save your home in case of a nearby brushfire," said DiLallo.

Florida Forestry Services has a section on its website dedicated to firewise landscaping, which allows homeowners to create and maintain a safety zone around their home. This "defensible space" increases the chances of a home surviving a wildfire even in the absence of firefighters.

Defensible space recommendations include:

- Defensible space should extend outward from the home from a minimum of 30 feet to 100 - 200 feet if the home borders heavy wildlands. This area can include shrubs and trees, but should be landscaped with plants known to be less-flammable, which are separated by walkways and grassed areas.

- A defensible space breaks up the continuity of vegetation that might otherwise lead an adjacent wildland fire to the structure.

- Gives firefighters room to safely work to defend a structure.

- Helps prevent a structure fire from spreading to adjacent wildland areas.

For more tips on firewise landscaping, visit the Florida Forestry Service's website at They also give guidelines on how to create a defensible space and provide a list of less-flammable trees and shrubs.



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