9 p.m. update: the last units left the scene at the White Eagle fire at 8:50 p.m., the fire put out but still producing smoke, and U.S. 1 reopened–with a caution to drivers about patches of smoke across the highway. The fire never jumped U.S. 1, Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito said. He estimated the fire consumed some 15 to 20 acres. The 78 Road fire west of Espanola, meanwhile, is still burning but not expanding.
Monday’s fire in the empty wooded expanses just west of Espanola had grown to 320 acres by Tuesday afternoon when, just after 4 p.m., another large fire began sprawling near single-family homes and farms just north of the White Eagle Saloon, near U.S. 1. Three helicopters and at least seven fire trucks, including firefighters from the Florida Division of Forestry, the Palm Coast Fire Department and the Flagler County Fire Department, are attempting to keep the blaze from jumping US1 and traveling west.
The Bunnell and Flagler Beach fire departments were also on the scene.
“It’s large,” Mike Beadle, Palm Coast’s fire chief, said at 4:30 p.m. “I don’t know if it’s growing. It’s moving.” Beadle said firefighters had saved two structures.
“It’s putting up a lot of smoke right now,” Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito said just before 5 p.m.. “It’s pushing pretty hard.” There was no size estimate of the fire yet. In a subdivision just north of the fire, residents were watering their roofs as they eyed the billowing black and gray smoke fold upward from behind thick pinewoods, while spotter planes and the helicopters crisscrossed the sky.
Laura Lynn, who lives on County Road 335, was at home just after 4 p.m. when, very suddenly, she looked up to see, just past a ridge of trees, the fire explode in front of her eyes. “Within 30 seconds, it grew so fast and serious I could not believe my eyes. It was black, black smoke and you could see the top of flames,” Lynn, who had two children and three cats at home, said.
“It was right here, we have trees in our backyard, it was right behind those trees—huge, just a huge fire. Since then they seem to be containing it. It’s not growing toward this direction,” Lynn said. “It was so ferocious, frighteningly ferocious. The fire department got right on it. It was amazing.” As soon as the firefighters got to the scene, Lynn noticed the blaze under some control.
Emergency services let her know she had to pack and be ready to leave. She realized she had not planned for the eventuality. She gathered laptops for the children’s school work, their musical instruments (a cello, a violin), her wedding ring, and she called her husband to ask him what papers to grab. Then she waited. (Her husband made it home in seven minutes.)
“We have a great community, all of our neighbors are communicating and looking after each other,” Lynn said. For now, she and the neighbors were staying put, as the fire was moving away from the neighborhood.
“It’s pretty much the same, it’s on the east side of US 1, we’re holding it there,” Petito said at 5:38 p.m. “A couple of spots on the west side but we got those.”