NEW PORT RICHEY — A brush fire that broke out Friday had burned 75 acres of Pasco County’s Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park by 2:20 p.m., forcing the closure of the park, according to Pasco County Fire Rescue.
Fire Rescue originally reported, just before noon, that the fire had burned through 8 acres.
By the 2:20 p.m. update, Florida Forest Service firefighters on the scene had started back burning, a controlled-burn process that reduces the amount of fuel available for a wildfire.
As of 1:15 p.m., Fire Rescue said in an earlier update, crews had created 10 percent of the perimeter needed to stop the fire’s spread. Nearby drivers reported smoke, and residents of adjacent neighborhoods reported falling ash, but no homes were in danger, according to the agency.
Fire rescue engines are watching conditions in those neighborhoods, and the agency urged drivers to be cautious in the area. The Florida Forest Service has five tractors on scene, as well as at least one aircraft.
Starkey park was reopened with “limited access” April 22 after being closed as restrictions were put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The popular regional park covers over 8,300 acres and is a cooperative venture between the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Pasco County Parks and Recreation. The park’s features include camping areas, a 10-mile equestrian trail, 13 miles of hiking trails and 7.3 miles of paved surface that links with the Suncoast Trail.
This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.