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Archive for Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wildfires force more evacuations

May 13, 2008

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— Dry, windy weather fueled several wildfires on Florida's central Atlantic coast Monday, damaging more than 50 homes and driving hundreds of residents away as the governor declared a state of emergency.

Fires in Palm Bay in Brevard County damaged about 50 homes and scorched 3,500 acres, or about 5 1/2 square miles; students at two schools were released early as a precaution.

"Everytime I turn around another house is on fire. We don't have enough resources on our own to do a job like this," Palm Bay spokeswoman Yvonne Martinez said.

In nearby Malabar, a 3,000-acre blaze destroyed at least four homes.

The Florida Highway Patrol shut down a 34-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Brevard County. U.S. Highway 1 also was closed in that area, and it was not known when it will reopen, FHP spokeswoman Kim Miller said.

One person may be responsible for the blaze, said Ernie Dieble, an arson investigator with the Palm Bay Police Department. A witness saw someone in a car drop something into an open field, and the fire started shortly afterward, he said.

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