HUDSON — Kim Mozlin was planning to close her sign shop at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
But that plan changed when someone from Pasco County Fire Rescue came knocking about 6:30 p.m.
"They said we have two minutes to get out," Mozlin said, standing outside Lickety Split Signs in a shopping plaza off U.S. 19., just north of New York Avenue. "This is just crazy."
Mozlin and another worker watched as thick plumes of smoke billowed into the sky from a nearby brush fire that started during afternoon rush hour. Traffic was snarled as drivers on U.S. 19 slowed down north of Hudson Avenue to get through the smoke. Some pulled their cars over at local businesses to catch a glimpse of the blaze.
The fire began about 6:19 p.m. on a field at U.S. 19 and Joliet Street, said Lt. Gary Kling of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
In all, about 20 acres burned. No one was hurt, and no buildings or homes were damaged. Officials have not yet determined the cause of the fire.
As the blaze raged on, fire rescue workers told residents on nearby streets they may have to evacuate in case the flames spread. Some loaded clothing and important papers into their cars, unsure of where they would go.
Stephen Milton, 26, stood in the backyard of his Michael Drive home in Gulf Side Estates with others who live in the area, sipping a Mountain Dew and watching the flames rise.
Milton said when he noticed the fire, he and his landlord hosed down the house with water as a precaution.
"I'm kind of worried," he said. "They didn't tell us much, but to get ready to leave."
A few moments later, a fire rescue worker approached Milton and a few other residents.
"It's time to go," the worker said.
"I don't know where we'll go now," Milton replied.
About 7 p.m., the fire died down. Fire rescue officials said they would have to evacuate only three homes.
Linda Fitts stood on Cadillac Avenue taking photos of the fire. Fitts, 43, saw the smoke off U.S. 19 and came to see if her son and friends who live in the area were okay.
"My stomach is in knots," she said. "But it looks a lot better now. It was incredible."
Nearby, Milton leaned on a Dodge truck filled with his and his fiancee's valuables, such as family photos and birth certificates.
His home wasn't one of the three that would be evacuated.
"I feel relieved," he said, smiling.
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.