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This Time, Fire Is Right Next Door
Dec 07, 2018

When south Orange County resident Kathy Zaleski smelled smoke Saturday, she figured it was from the huge brush fire that has been burning all week in Lake County.

Wrong. The smoke came from a brush fire practically next door to her that briefly threatened dozens of homes in the SouthChase community near the Osceola County line.

``My husband said to me, `Oh, my goodness; get the heck out of the house,''' Zaleski said.

The fire consumed almost an acre of trees and brush sandwiched between homes in the neighborhood. It got so close that the heat burst two windows in an unoccupied house between Zaleski's home and the wooded area.

The fire, which generated more than 50 calls to 911, even hopscotched across a street before firefighters controlled it about 2:30 p.m. The cause was not known.

Similar scares may lie ahead for Central Florida residents. With each day of dry weather the threat of fire grows, and the National Weather Service said no rain is expected for at least the next five days in the Orlando area.

Two small brush fires were reported in Osceola County on Saturday, one ignited by a car fire, the other by an electrical fire, authorities said. No property was damaged, but a half-acre brush fire in the north part of the county came within 20 feet of homes.

The SouthChase fire might have been worse had it not been for the quick actions of contractor Bill Kasper and his wife, Pat, who were in the neighborhood to repair a house.

Before firefighters arrived, the two attached garden hoses to the homes on each side of the burning wooded area and fought off the flames, which extended to treetops at times.

``I was just sitting on my truck, and I saw smoke,'' Pat Kasper said. ``I'm a country girl, so I had to act fast.''

Residents also broke out hoses to fend off the fire.

Chris Crowley, district chief for the Orange County fire department, said the area is surrounded by about 125 acres of forest.

``There was a potential for a problem,'' he said of the brush fire.

Zaleski said a similar fire threatened the community about six years ago.

``I'm from Philadelphia,'' she said. ``I'm not used to this stuff.''


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