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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Firefighters in Central Florida Fight Massive Brushfire

Aired May 18, 2002 - 18:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a busy day for firefighters in central Florida. Right now, they're trying to save a number of homes just north of Ft. Pierce.

That's where a massive brushfire is racing through a neighborhood there. Evacuations are under way; other crews are also battling a fire near the airport there. More than 1,000 acres are reported to be burning, and the conditions there -- dry conditions -- fueling those flames.

Let's listen in to some of the live coverage from WPEC-TV.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...power lines that are being threatened by the fire. So...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can imagine so, you can see down this street if you look directly down the street, there's power lines all the way down the street and there's planes coming dangerously close to this area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tara (ph), we're wondering if a command post has been set up, and if you know where that is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Well, from what we understand, yes, there is a command post but it is a mobile command post. Meaning that, they are moving it around to wherever they need it most, and at one point, it was here on this street and it's been moved to wherever it needs to be at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: How many choppers do you see in the sky that's fighting the fire? It sounds like there could be several. We know there's at least one in the air right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Well, in our area right now we've got one chopper, in addition to we see SKY-12 (ph) flying up above, and we've got the sheriff's office chopper up there as well. But one fire-rescue chopper in this area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Tara, want to give you the latest information; just getting word that the power is now out at the St. Lucie County Airport. Our pilot with SKY-12, Gary Hanson (ph), had reported that that airport was going to be shutting down and should be shut down at this moment. Of course, one of the fires is very close. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: And, well, visibility on landing or taking off I think would be very difficult in a situation like this. Once again, let's recap -- we have -- Tara -- are we hearing a total acreage yet, on how many acres are burning at this point?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tara -- obviously trying to get some more information. The last estimates that we had, Susanne (ph), was about a thousand acres are already burning, or already have burned -- but of course, with this fire burning so fast, that number keeps rising. I know just two hours ago, they were saying 60.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, and we -- that's true -- 60 acres to about a thousand. We had also heard that about 30 homes were being evacuated but, of course, that may have changed at this point.

We have heard that one house is burning; the subdivision of Forest Street (ph) has said they lost a structure. We do not know if it's a home at this time, but they did say some sort of structure.

Once again, you are looking at live pictures. This is directly over -- sort of, where Tara is standing. Except for we're getting -- obviously -- a different vantage point here from SKY-12.

And you can see just how -- I mean, it looks like it's smoking at this point, doesn't look like a lot of flames, but we saw that before and then all of a sudden, you saw the flames spark up again. So, it's very hit and miss as far as putting out this fire and getting it to stay out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, the original evacuation area was Carson Way (ph), Jefferson Parkway (ph), and West 60 (ph) Highway -- the sheriff's deputies were going door to door suggesting to people you should leave.

At that point, it was voluntary; now they are saying it is mandatory that those people in those areas leave their homes. They've also been suggesting people in the area to go ahead, pack up your personal belongings that you want to have in case you have to leave, and anything that you want to protect you'd better start making some plans to try and make sure that those are safe, just be on the safe side.

Also in evacuation right now is the FHP Headquarters in Ft. Pierce, planes getting too close there, they are moving their cars out of the parking lot, moving them to a different location. They are also moving all the files out of the building, all the important files, to be on the safe side, as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the building is already pretty much closed down as far as from what we're being told.

Let's turn it over again to meteorologist Michael Erenberg (ph); he's been telling us about the winds which are really hurting what the firefighters are trying to do here, because the wind is what's really picking up and spreading the fire as quickly as it's spreading. Michael, what can you tell us?

MICHAEL ERENBERG (ph): Well, Susanne, actually there's a little bit of good news as far as the wind is concerned, over the last hour between five and six o'clock the wind has decreased from 13 knots to 10 knots.

Now they are from the west-southwest to the southwest and that means the smoke is blowing from west-southwest here towards the east and northeast and northeast. Again, at a speed of about ten knots, 10 to 15 miles an hour.

So, if you live in the path of that smoke, you know, keep advised you want to keep your windows closed and keep the doors shut.

The other good news is that the humidity has gone up -- a little bit of good news -- has gone up from 44 to 45 percent, between five and six o'clock this afternoon. The higher the humidity, of course, the more moist things get and the slower the fire will spread.

But, nevertheless, it's still 91 degrees, it's still dry, there's still a breeze out of the west and southwest, so this fire is going to be spreading, and like we've been saying, that drought index is still 570 (ph) and continuing to creep up without any rainfall activity.

But you know, there is good news because there is a little bit more rain in our forecast, and when I come back a little bit later on, I'll talk about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, thank you, Michael. Well, let's just go over how this fire, the timeline...

SAN MIGUEL: Back here at the CNN Center in Atlanta. You've been listening to coverage of WPEC-TV near Ft. Pierce in central Florida where firefighters are fighting a fire -- a brush fire -- there that's consumed more than 1,000 acres, more than 30 homes have been evacuated. The St. Lucie Airport has been shut down by this. We'll bring you more details as they become available.

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