HUDSON, Fla. - The blackened trees are a stark reminder of what can happen when people are careless. "It was a reckless act," Pasco Fire Chief Andy Fossa said of the campfire that sparked a 115-acre brushfire.
Overnight on Monday, the fire near Hudson set the sky aglow, forced people to evacuate their homes, and closed U.S. 19 for hours because of smoke.
Investigators say a campfire left burning in the woods behind The Links golf course is to blame. "It was a campfire that was set up by either teenagers or adults out partying," Fossa said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference. "They decided to leave the campfire, it escaped, and this is our end results from it."
Firefighters spent the day plowing lines around the fire and dousing flare-ups. That work will continue throughout the night, because wind-blown sparks are still a concern.
"This is an unburned island inside the fire line and that could flare up and start throwing embers downwind," said Dave Fogler of the Florida Forest Service while driving through the now mostly-charred landscape.
Because of the proximity to U.S. 19, firefighters will concentrate on plowing, instead of encouraging brush burn, in order to cut down on smoke.
"If this was in an area where there weren't homes or an area where there weren't roads and smoke wasn't an issue, you might very well burn out the area," said the Forest Service's Kawika Bailey of the strategy.
Even if the fire does not flare up again, smoke is expected to linger in the area for about a week. People with respiratory problems are urged to take precautions. The Florida Highway Patrol will continue to monitor visibility on U.S. 19.