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Hernando brush fire that destroyed home deemed suspicious

A 110-acre brush fire destroyed one Weeki Wachee home and damaged two others in southeastern Hernando County on Friday, according to the Florida Forest Service.

The source of the fire appeared to be suspicious, Hernando County Fire Rescue officials said.

The fire, dubbed the King Bird Wild Fire, was located east of U.S. 19 and north of Centralia Road, firefighters said.

Crews contained the fire by 11 p.m. Friday, according to officials. No injuries were reported and no other homes were believed to be threatened.

One home suffered significant damage forcing the family to flee, said Hernando County Fire Rescue Chief Alex Lopez at a Friday evening news conference. That family is being housed by the American Red Cross. The two other homes suffered less severe damage, and those families chose to stay.

The homes were likely damaged when burning embers landed on them, Lopez said.

Authorities did not release any details about why they believe the fire was suspicious. State officials were investigating the cause of the blaze.

Dry conditions contributed to Friday's fire. Florida Forest Service's Jason Packard said it's been about 26 days since Hernando County last saw rain and February was historically warm. Also, the humidity fell Friday as a front moved through.

"It's a tinder box out here," he said.

The Keeth Byram Drought Index, which rates soil dryness, shows none of the counties in the Tampa Bay area in drought conditions. The short-term forecast also shows opportunities for rain as several more fronts are expected to push through, according to the National Weather Service.

However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center said drought conditions are likely to develop across nearly the entire state of Florida in March.

April and May tend to be the worst months for droughts, the weather service said, because temperatures are up, and those months don't experience the rains and humidity typical during summer months.

Firefighters asked residents to avoid the area near the King Bird fire.