WIMAUMA, Fla. - It's a sight that residents along Maple Mex St. have seen before, black smoke billowing from a nearby brush fire. Only this time, the flames came much earlier than usual, and much closer than before.
"It's scary, because it's not the first time it's happened," said Malena Castillo, a resident who's trailer was just a few feet from the fire. "I was scared that something might happen to my parents or my sister," she said, after watching the numerous fire trucks parked next to her home.
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue said brush fire season doesn't get going in earnest until spring, but crews have already fought three blazes larger than 30-acres.
"For some reason we started early," said Ronnie Rivera, a Fire/Rescue spokesman. "The last two or three weeks we've been getting a lot of brush fires."
Firefighters were able to contain this brush fire before it did any serious damage. One trailer's exterior siding melted from the heat of the flames, but the structure was not damaged enough to keep the family from returning. One of the residents was nine-months pregnant, and spent the afternoon nervously watching crews put out the flames.
Tanker trucks were nearby, as firefighters doused the smoldering dirt to keep hotspots from flaring up.
The blackened field next to Maple Mex St. reeked of burned brush, an unpleasant reminder of the dangers of brush fire season.
Investigators haven't found the cause of the fire, but they're not ruling out people as
a possibility. The area that was burned is littered with beer bottles, and often times cigarette smoking is involved with drinking.
Fire crews are reminding residents in vulnerable areas to be extra cautious.
"Please do not burn outdoors," Rivera said. "Watch your surroundings. No cigarettes, because everything is so dry with the cold weather," he said.