FROSTPROOF (FOX 13) - As crews continue to battle flare-ups at what is now a 4,000-acre brush fire, evacuated residents have been returning to their homes -- or, in a few cases, what was left of them.
Ashley felts' home became a victim of the raging fire, which crept right up to her property line. She had just five minutes to pack up her family and get out.
“You think you can picture what it's gonna look like but you can't,” Felts told FOX 13 News. “About an hour and 10 minutes after we evacuated, we knew we didn't have a home to come home to.”
Her neighbor called to confirm her worst fear: the house was gone.
“I actually thought I was coming home to a house that maybe just had some smoke damage or a little bit of damage throughout the property. Not my entire property ripped apart,” Felts said.
She showed us the skeleton of her house Thursday night. One of the few things you can still make out is her massive garage refrigerator - bowed from the intense heat of the flames.
Polk County Fire Rescue says, in addition to felts' property, the fire burned 4,000 acres.
In a map, Polk Fire Rescue plotted the area in orange, on both sides of County Road 630, that burned Wednesday, including Indian Lake Estates. The red is where the fire broke out Thursday, threatening the River Ranch Hunt Club.
It forced more evacuations and kept those trying to check on their campers - out.
“It's very, very scary, because we love this place. We've been coming here for years and it would be devastating if we lost it,” Suzette Jones said. She owns a camper at River Ranch.
It's the kind of devastation felts and her family feels now. Amazingly, her barn - just feet from her destroyed home - was untouched. The four horses she had to leave behind survived. Despite that relief, everything else did not.
“Every picture that I had in that household is gone. Every toy they had is gone. Their favorite things, my favorite things. Things that are irreplaceable,” Felts said.
Fire investigators don't yet know the cause of the fire. Residents have been asking about a connection to a controlled burn south of the fire site, but there has been no official word.
Meanwhile, sections of the fire flared up again Thursday. Winds shifted, keeping the Indian Lakes Estates area out of imminent danger, but officials have called for an evacuation of the River Ranch camps.