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Authorities: Pinellas wildfire not connected to controlled burn; cause under investigation

SAFETY HARBOR — State authorities are investigating the cause of a wildfire in the Mobbly Preserve Bayou that started Wednesday afternoon.

County officials say that fire is not connected to a controlled burn that county workers were conducting in the same area; the Pinellas County Department of Environmental Management was conducting a prescribed burn of about 10 acres in the preserve on Wednesday.

But the brush fire that drew firefighters from around north Pinellas actually started upwind of the controlled burn, according to the Florida Division of Forestry.

Authorities are investigating reports that the brush fire may have been started by children in the area.

County spokeswoman Mary Burrell said that workers overseeing the prescribed burn saw two boys on dirt bikes in the restricted area.

Then workers noticed something else:

"They heard fireworks," Burrell said, "and not long after they saw smoke."

County workers spotted the wildfire and called 911, Burrell said. The report came in at 3:40 p.m. and the fire was reported contained around 5:20 p.m., after it had burned 18 acres. Firefighters were still on the scene Thursday, mopping up the fire.

But authorities caution that they don't know what caused the fire, or if a cause will even be found. The investigation will be conducted by the Florida Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement.

Burrell said that the controlled burn went as planned. A report Wednesday that said the brush fire grew out of the controlled burn was based on incorrect information from authorities.

Authorities: Pinellas wildfire not connected to controlled burn; cause under investigation 06/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 18, 2009 6:33pm]
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