Big Pine Key, still recovering from Irma, endures fast-moving brush fire

- Fire officials in the Florida Keys are warning the residents of Big Pine Key to prepare for evacuations after a brush fire broke out on Sunday. 

On Sunday afternoon, the brush fire started on Hibiscus Drive on Big Pine Key and has traveled several miles since then, according to Monroe County officials. The key located between Key West and Marathon. Fire crews as far north as Miami-Dade County and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services arrived to battle the flames. There are about 60 firefighters, and at least 13 fire engines, tankers and helicopters, used to drop water by air. 

Keys Energy Services shut off power around 3:15 p.m. to nearly 2,000 customers on Big Pine Key. One home has been destroyed. By 8 a.m. Monday, Monroe County fire officials say 40 percent of the fire has been contained, and 100 acres have burned.

Hurricane Irma mainly devastated portions of the Lower Keys, particularly Big Pine Key, which continues to recover since the September storm. Monroe County Fire Rescue says the fire is quickly moving due to windy and dry vegetation caused by the hurricane.

“Unfortunately, we did lose one home, but through the incredible hard work of the men and women firefighters we were able to save several homes and nobody was injured,” said Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt in a statement. “Some firefighters worked through the night without rest and continue to work today.”

Residents, Juanita Kretschmar and her housemate George Adams, were at their home on Sunday afternoon when police arrived on their saying they would be trapped if they didn't leave their home, according to Monroe County officials. 

“I grabbed a couple of things and my Bible," she told them, along with her bird and dogs. The fire reached her porch, but with the help of the Key West Fire Department and her neighbor, armed with a garden hose, her home was spared.

Seven months earlier, a small part of her roof was torn during Irma, and she remains grateful that her home was safe during the latest natural event.

“They did it; they saved my home,” she said. “God bless them.”

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