Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fleeing the Flames Nothing New for Folks Living in Flagler County

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fleeing the Flames Nothing New for Folks Living in Flagler County

Article excerpt

History did not repeat itself.

It was reburned.

Last week was a flaming reprise for Flagler County.

For the second generation in a row Florida's "worst wildfires"

savaged the small coastal county.

This time the whole county was evacuated, to places that were

not on fire or as likely to become on fire.

Last time, 13 years ago, more than 1,000 Palm Coast residents

fled the flames.

And there were a lot less people then, if not less flame.

There was no countywide evacuation the middle of May 1985. It

was just a compelling idea.

The refugees became the focal point of more than 60 wildfires

that roared across North Florida. Twenty-nine counties were

under the pall of disaster.

Gov. Bob Graham declared a state of emergency. He flew to

Jacksonville on his way to Palm Coast, the most visible

catastrophe, and made official the obvious:

"This is one of the, if not the, most serious fires in Florida

history," Graham said.

Even in the acrid air of disaster, Graham aide John Bethea

predicted things would get worse.

The elements would always be with us, and fire's little helper

-- man -- as well.

Florida's rapidly growing population would mean that fire

likely would cause even more damage in years to come, said

Bethea, director of the Division of Forestry.

He was right.

"It is a combination of a lot of things that will come

together," Bethea said.

Hot weather. Dry woods. Careless burning. Sturdy wind.

Lightning. Cigarette butts. Kids playing with matches.

The inscrutable confluence of nature, fate and folly.

"Looks like Vietnam," said Bob Burns, burly, bearded Palm Coast

volunteer fire coordinator.

Burns was one of the first back in.

He drove a Jeep from one charred subdivision to another the

blackened Saturday after the fire had its way. …

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