Crews contain large brush fire in Polk County, evacuees return home, roads reopened

Posted at 1:27 PM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-16 15:25:31-05

UPDATE | Feb. 16, 3:20 p.m.--

Nine mobile homes and two single family homes were destroyed in the nearly 2,000 acres brush fire that swept through the Indian Lake Estates Wednesday, according the preliminary reports from assessment crews.

Crews from Polk County Emergency Management and the American Red Cross are currently conducting assessments of the areas around County Road 630, State Road 60 and within the Indian Lake Estates Community.

The fire, which spread to an estimated 2,000 acres Wednesday was contained today. But fire crews are continuing to monitor the situation and fight the continuing hot spots.

UPDATE | Feb. 16, 1:50 p.m.--

The Indian Lake Estates fire is contained, but not extinguished. Polk County Fire Rescue and Florida Forest Service have crews on standby should the fire intensify or break out of its boundaries.

Current assessments indicate that damage inside the Indian Lake Estates is limited to sheds and vehicles.
Weather conditions remain a threat.

There was property damage along CR 630 and SR 60. Polk County Emergency Management, Polk County Building Division and the American Red Cross are currently carrying out a thorough assessment to determine the actual count of damaged or destroyed properties. 

The Florida Forest Service remains on scene and is focusing around SR 60 and CR 630. They are also providing aerial support. There are emergency vehicles and smoky conditions in the area, so motorists are asked to drive carefully.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is assisting by scouting the River Ranch Hunt Club.

ORIGINAL STORY | Investigators and fire crews are now assessing the damage left behind following the massive brush fire near Indian Lake Estates in Polk County.

Thursday morning, people living in Indian Lake Estates were allowed back into their homes.

PHOTOS | Massive brush fire forces residents to evacuate

Erica Barlean told ABC Action News she is breathing a sigh of relief and a sending a note of thanks to the Polk firefighter that got her family out.

"Came in the house, grabbed the kids, the dogs, cats threw us in the truck we backed up and it was right next door," said Barlean.

She arrived back at her Indian Lake Estates home Thursday morning hours after an emergency evacuation.

"It went down the trees, it hit all the brush cause that's all super thick," Barlean told ABC Action News.

The family's sedan was destroyed, as well as a shed out back, but her home was saved.

The Polk county fire department is warning that many hot spots remain and that people who live in the area will likely see some small fires in wooded areas.

"The heat was just intense," said resident Steven Hall.

Hall took a pro-active approach. Dosing his yard with water, hoping to avoid problems.

"I've got vinyl siding around that side of the house and it just melted," said Hall.

Despite the damage to several vehicles and property, only one person was injured. "Unbelievably thankful," said Barlean.

The Polk county fire department will be out throughout the day Thursday. They will be monitoring the area and hitting those hot spots. This as many in the community look to come back home and see things up close for the first time.



Polk County Fire Rescue and Florida Forest Service are currently battling a massive brush fire in Polk County.

Fire crews estimate the fire has burned 1,500 to 1,600 acres in the Indian Lake Estates area along Hwy 630 E and being fueled by winds.

According to Florida Forest Services, approximately 800 homes in the Indian Lake Estates subdivision have been ordered to evacuate.  The River Ranch Hunting Grounds are also under evacuation.

Tony Stravino, Polk County Fire Rescue Chief said several sheds and cars have been destroyed.

In addition, at least one home has been damaged.

Stravino also said several pets have died from the fire. He added that anyone choosing to stay behind at their home does so at their own risk.

Staci Feagle stayed behind and says she and her children were able to save it from approaching flames by hosing it down.

"It scared us," she said, "but we saved it, it's there, it's intact."


She says she'll stay there all night, despite the fire chief's warning.

"Because that's where we live," she said, "I've got three kids and I had to get all their stuff."

She was also able to salvage her wedding dress, just days before her wedding.

"My house is here to come back to after I get married," she said, "so it's just a blessing." 


Crews are using eight bulldozers, three brush trucks and one helicopter to fight this fire.

Reverse 911 was used to contact residents who live in the affected area.
The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.