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Pasco blaze adds to season's toll

Pasco County firefighters quickly put out a blaze Saturday beside SR 52 in New Port Richey.

MIKE CAMUNAS | Times

Pasco County firefighters quickly put out a blaze Saturday beside SR 52 in New Port Richey.

NEW PORT RICHEY — After the week Pasco County has had — two major wildfires in the beginning of a season experts say will be one of Florida's worst — someone decided to light a fire in a pasture along State Road 52 Saturday afternoon.

"Somebody started it," said Lane Shepherd of the Florida Division of Forestry. "But we don't know why."

Crews from the Division of Forestry and Pasco County Fire Rescue quickly contained the half-acre fire. Some firefighters speculated that it had been started by a discarded cigarette. Flames rose 30 feet in the air, visible from the Suncoast Parkway.

The other two fires last week, one in Holiday and another in San Antonio, burned more than 340 acres. The fire in Holiday threatened many homes and damaged a few in the Beacon Square neighborhood. It took three days to contain the blaze.

Experts warn that this year, Florida could have such severe fires that agencies across the nation will be called. The winter freezes killed vegetation, making it excellent fuel. Adding to that is a rain shortage.

Pasco County commissioners are expected in Tuesday to ban open burning and lighting fireworks because of the drought.

Hernando County issued a burn ban Feb. 11, and Citrus County did so in January.

"We are getting close to being very busy with fires," Shepherd said.

Pasco blaze adds to season's toll 02/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 21, 2009 8:14pm]
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