Sunday, April 22, 2018
Public safety

50-acre brush fire in Ruskin under control after Interstate 75 closed

Hillsborough County firefighters battled a 50-acre brush fire in Ruskin on Saturday that destroyed a warehouse and burned several cars, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

The fire was under control as of 3 p.m., agency spokesman Ronnie Rivera said.

The smoke was so thick that authorities initially closed Interstate 75 in both directions. The southbound lanes reopened at 3:30 p.m., but the northbound lanes remained closed until about 6:15 p.m.

The fire was burning on both the east and west sides of I-75, Rivera said, centered near the area of 27th Street SE and 22nd Avenue SE.

Robert Phillips, 63, owned the warehouse that burned down Saturday. Sitting on 10 acres of unused farm land, the building housed a few farming and building supplies, including about 400 fence posts Phillips had planned to install soon. His son, who lives on 27th Street SE called with the news. Phillips, who was just a few miles away, knew the building was a lost cause as soon as he saw the smoke.

"I could see black smoke from across the interstate," he said, "and I figured everything was gone."

The fire also destroyed a few old racing cars and some farming equipment parked on the land.

"Some of the vehicles were quite valuable," he said. "But I'm glad there weren't any homes."

This is the second time in a few years this piece of land has caught fire, Phillips said. Fireworks were the cause then, he said.

The cause of Saturday's fire is still unknown, Rivera said. It started with about five acres at about noon Saturday just south of the Sun City Center exit of I-75. In just a few hours it grew to 50 acres.

"It's just so dry and windy, it grew out of control," Rivera said.

By late afternoon, the fire was contained to the east side of I-75 and under control with crews continuing to monitor hot spots. No homes were affected and there were no injuries, Rivera said.

 
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