Wildfire in North Port grows to 3,500 acres

- The timing of this weekend's wildfire in north port couldn't be worse for property owners Bevin and Gary Holzschuh: in 11 days the two are scheduled to close on the sale of their 5-acre wooded property. Property that has now been scorched by wildfire.  

"You stand here and look around and it's just crazy," said Holzshuh. "I guess I'm just out of words. It's pretty heartbreaking." 

They'd once considered building their home on the secluded property, but ultimately decided to sell the land instead. The deal may now fall through, but Gary says things would've been a lot worse had they followed through with their original plans.

"We woke up this morning and that's exactly what I said to my wife: thank God. Things happen for reason. I'm not sure why this happened but right behind you was going to be the house and where we're standing would've been the driveway and our front yard. You think about the goats we have and multiple dogs and the safety of them," said Holzschuh.

On Saturday 20-30 mph winds spread the fire rapidly. At one point officials had to close a 10-mile stretch of I-75 as heavy smoke covered the roadway and the fire advanced at a rate of 200 acres every 30 minutes.

Forestry officials suspect the fire began in a wooded area on Raintree Blvd in North Port. While battling the blaze, firefighters discovered an abandoned burned out SUV that appeared to have driven off the roadway and into the woods along Raintree Blvd. A forestry official said detectives are investigating why the car was left there and whether or not it has anything to do with that fire that started Saturday afternoon.

By Sunday the fire had grown to more than 3500 acres and was only 35-percent contained. Forestry officials say it could continue to burn for the next 10 days to two weeks.

Firefighters are working around the clock to keep the fire from spreading into more populated areas around North Port and Port Charlotte. Florida forestry officials are recommending homeowners across the Bay Area to safe guard their properties by cleaning out roofs and gutters and pruning vegetation away from homes. For more information visit firewise.org.

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