Wildfires burning in Hudson, New Port Richey

- Several brush fires broke out in Pasco County Tuesday.

Two of them were burning along State Road 54, which was closed for part of the afternoon and evening. It reopened just before 9 p.m. Fire officials say drivers should be careful driving on Old Count Road 54 and SR 54 in the area of the Anclote River bridge and be cognizant of low lying smoke.

The fires burned through 32 acres. A Florida Forest Service pilot flying over SR 54 spotted the first sign of trouble Tuesday afternoon. Crews set controlled perimeter fires to secure the larger fire.

Though there are residential communities nearby, there were no evacuations. Neighbors watched closely through the evening, hoping the flames would stay on the other side of SR 54.

"We seen the smoke coming and we said that's pretty close to the house and as we were coming over the bridge we seen the flames in the field," said Keith Sarif, who lives nearby. "As we pulled over, it just started engulfing the entire side of the road."

It was a busy day of fire fighting in Pasco County. At the same time as the New Port Richey fires, another brush fire was burning in Hudson, south of Denton Avenue and east of Coyote Road. County officials say that fire is burned an estimated two to three acres and was being pushed northeast by gusty winds.

Flames did not threaten any homes in that are. However, all athletic events at Arthur Engle Memorial Park in Hudson were canceled.

"Our crews have been working all afternoon just jumping from fire to fire to fire," said Pasco Fire Division Chief Shawn Whited. "This is actually our fifth fire today. "

Pasco, along with the rest of Florida is extremely dry. There's a burn ban in place. Fire risk is high. And, fire crews are stretched thin.

But there's one key difference about the fires New Port Richey: the cause. Fire officials say they appear suspicious.

"There's four fires in this general area within 15 minutes," Whited said. "There's no lightning today. It's not an act of mother nature. This is something that is definitely something that is probably incendiary in nature. We have reports of suspects in the area. They're actively working that with the Sheriff's Office at this time."

So far, there have been no arrests or suspects named.

Intentional or accidental, all of this is a reminder of how destructive a single spark can be, and how careful everyone must be this time of year around dry, brushy areas.

"A lot of ashes have been flying over to this side of the street so we are just concerned that if any embers come over on this side that it would catch that and end up getting one of the houses or all the houses," said Sarif.

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