The call came in shortly before noon Thursday that there was a fire at Pinelands Preserve on Pine Island. Smoke could be seen for miles around as the Matlacha/Pine Island fire trucks sped to the scene.
The Pine Island Fire Department arrived at approximately noon.
"We have what looks to be about 20 acres burning at this time," Fire Chief Joseph Marzella said. "This is Conservation 20/20 land and we have no idea how it started. We have four or five additional departments responding to our calls for assistance. As you can see there is a wind that will be a significant factor but we should have this contained soon."
Smoke billows from the brush fire in the Pinelands Preserve on Pine Island.
As the fire continued to grow Chief Marzella called in for assistance from 13 additional fire departments. The fire raged for another four hours consuming nearly 100 acres of the 920-acre preserve and the fire came dangerously close to one home.
State Forestry responded with several helicopters (one with a water bucket), a spotter plane and several vehicles.
The cause of the fire was later determined to be a lightning strike.
The preserve is located about 6 miles south of the 4-way stop. The southern portion of the preserve is bordered by Stringfellow Road to the east, mangrove swamp and mudflats to the west, a future residential development to the north, and residential homes to the south.
"I was there to rescue wildlife," Phil Buchanan said. "That and mostly stay out of the way of the firefighters. They did a great job and had this completely contained in about 4 hours."