TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It was the fire that didn’t want to quit. Smoldering, simmering and raging since Sunday, the 35-acre brush fire along Hillsborough Avenue in the Westchase-area, resembled something akin to the “little engine that could.”
The brush fire kept going, and going, and going.
A lightning strike was most likely the cause, according to Florida Forestry firefighters. It took more than 24-hours for the massive blaze to actually take hold.
Forestry officials shared an exclusive photo with WFLA, showing the tree that took the hit. A clear, long indention can be seen in the bark.
“This was a very unique situation for us, said Patrick Keogh, a supervisor with Florida Forestry. “We wouldn’t have this fire, have we seen some rain lately. Because it was so dry, the conditions were perfect”
The lightning strike took place, according to Keogh, sometime Saturday night. When it struck the tree, deep in the brush, it was like a tinderbox. That tree and surrounding wooded area essentially began to cook. By Sunday afternoon, tall, willowy flames danced along side Hillsborough Avenue at Montague.
Before firefighters knew it, 35 acres were burning, causing distinct traffic delays along the busy road. At one point, Florida Highway Patrol closed down the thoroughfare completely, then later opened a few lanes for Monday morning’s rush-hour.
There were more problems plaguing firefighters, awaiting them each workday, a specific nemesis, to be exact – hotspots, playing a bit of a sinister whack-a-mole game. Every time one was put out, another popped up quickly. That lasted for nearly three days.
Finally, a giant dousing of rain on Monday and Tuesday night’s thunderstorms allowed this brush fire to be soaked and stopped. “We are dealing with this dry weather. We finally saw some rain, and that’s what put this fire out for good,” said Keogh.