April 22, 2017 / 5:21 PM / 3 months ago

Florida wildfires force evacuations, destroy homes

2 Min Read

(Reuters) - Scattered wildfires were burning in drought-stricken parts of central and southwestern Florida on Saturday, destroying nine homes and triggering evacuation orders for about 2,000 other residences.

Governor Rick Scott, who declared a state of emergency on April 11 because of dry conditions in Florida, deployed National Guard troops to help residents to safety. He said he also authorized the use of five UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to help fight the fire.

In southwest Florida, a wildfire destroyed nine homes and charred about 4,800 acres (1,942 hectares) in Collier County, said Clark Ryals, a senior forester for the Florida Forest Service.

The southwest blaze, which started on Thursday and was only 10 percent contained on Saturday, forced residents to evacuate in the Golden Gate Estates area of Naples.

In central Florida, wildfires that spread across more than 600 acres in Polk County were being investigated as suspicious, said a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

Those fires were 60 percent contained, according to the Polk County Fire Rescue's Facebook page, which added that a mandatory evacuation was ordered but no homes were destroyed.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Paul Simao

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