Twenty-two firefighters from nine departments in Pinellas County crossed the state last week to battle forest fires in Brevard County.
The group managed to save 200 homes in its short time there and nobody got hurt.
Bill Scott, a lieutenant with Largo Fire Rescue, was one of the 22. He recounted his experience Monday after a short news conference at the county's Emergency Medical Services Center in Largo.
He came on duty at 7 a.m. Monday to hear they needed a
lieutenant to go to Brevard.
"My first response was what brush fires? I didn't even know there were any going on," he said.
A few hours later, he was on an engine heading into unfamiliar territory where he would confront unexpected challenges.
"When I think about brush fires, I think about trees and palmetto bushes," said Scott, 41. "This was something different, where homes were actually in the brush. It was a lot of overgrown areas where there were no hydrants."
The five-engine contingent arrived at 2 p.m. May 12 and worked nonstop until 2 a.m.
Humidity was dangerously low. Winds were high. The temperature was 85. The crew was sent to its own pocket of the massive fire.
Each engine was stationed on a different street. Armed with only a map book, it was easy to lose their bearings. The smoke was so thick they couldn't find the sun nor tell north from south. But the crew worked through the problems, and Scott said they learned a lot to bring back to Pinellas.
"I know how fire behaves differently," he said. "It almost comes like its own little weather system. The winds start picking up and it's actually the flames that are causing the winds and that causes the flames to get bigger."
The most memorable moment, however, took place away from the action. On the third or fourth day, the fire crew was stopped at an Air Force base to resupply when a little girl came up to them with handmade cards.
Scott held one in his hand on Monday.
"You could tell school kids made them," Scott said. "This one says thanks, a little touch of my friendship and it says we love what you do for us. … I know it sounds corny, that means the most to me."