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Two Major Fires Burning Near Gulf Coast City, Believed To Be Arson

February 22, 1985

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) _ Firefighters struggled on Thursday to contain two major fires that have destroyed a house and 1,450 acres of brushland east of here. A state official said the blazes apparently were set by arsonists.

Low-growing vegetation, dead and dried out because of freezes in January, is providing steady fuel for the fires, said John Amison, spokesman for the state Division of Forestry.The state remains under a brush fire alert because of recent dry and breezy weather.

State officials fear the fires, which Amison said appear to have been the work of arsonists, could threaten an undetermined number of houses east of this city on Florida’s Gulf coast, an area struck by brushfires earlier this month.

Amison said he did not know whether residents had to be evacuated or if there had been any injuries.

One of the fires destroyed a house and engulfed a Division of Forestry firefighting tractor, said Amison. The tractor operator escaped unharmed.

About 15 state foresters and local firefighters plowed trenches in front of the advancing fire lines and doused other areas with water to stop the blazes.

The largest fire had destroyed 800 acres Thursday afternoon, Amison said. The other fire had destroyed 650 acres.

Firefighters were hampered by winds that kept the brushfires burning briskly.

″The weather is not favorable,″ Amison said. ″We have variable winds blowing about 10 miles an hour. That’s enough to sustain a fire.″

Both fires were moving in a northwesterly direction, he said.

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