• 10 to 15 homes destroyed in Nassau County wildfire; evacuation order still in place

    By: Amanda Winkle


    Ten to 15 homes have been destroyed by a wildfire off County Road 121 in Bryceville.

    The fire began as an illegal burn when a person was burning paperback books around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Annaleasa Winter with Florida Forest Service.

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    The fire was contained to 5 acres at first, but the wind blew it out of control. The landowner is in violation and will be held responsible for the damage caused by the fire, Winter said.

    As of just before 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, the fire was 50 percent contained and had burned 400 acres. The fire is no longer spreading and crews will be working throughout the night to fully contain it.

    Residents near County Road 121, County Road 119 and Countryside Acres were ordered to evacuate Wednesday afternoon due to the wildfire, and as of late Wednesday night, that order was still in place. No fatalities have been reported thus far as a result of the fire.

    The fire shut down CR 121 between DB Hicks Road and Willis Lane in Bryceville.

    Officials said the fire gained momentum due to windy conditions.

    The wind caused spot fires in the area, Billy Estep from Nassau County Emergency Management said. Winds picked embers up and put them in other areas, causing the small fires.

    Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and Florida Forest Service assisted Nassau County firefighters in working to protect homes.

    Emergency personnel went door to door to evacuate homeowners in the path of the fire.

    Families packed up everything they could in a matter of minutes.
    "We were told to evacuate. I don’t think we have much choice," said Laura Underwood.
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    "I’m not sure,” Underwood said.
    Several homeowners were forced to get out as fast as they could.
    ”I’m fixin’ to lose everything that we have, that we've worked hard for. There are a lot of things that we won’t be able to replace. Pictures, furniture that were my grandmother's and just, my grandchildren's pictures and things, just a lot of stuff,” Beverly Thomas said. 
    Action News Jax crews saw fire trucks at a pond, refilling their tanks, and neighbors across the street spraying water on top of their homes, in preparation of what could come.
    John Roberts was one of the few who stayed behind.
    “I have a lot of friends and family, I’m worried about them first. Something like this makes anybody nervous. You worry about everything,” Roberts said. 
    Everything these families say they worked a lifetime to get.
    “Everything you worked for could be gone in an instant,” Underwood said.
    Call the Nassau County Florida Emergency Management at (904) 879-3300 and the Florida Forest Service at (904) 266-8351 for assistance.  

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    Estep said they are prepared to open up shelters overnight if needed. Officials do not have an exact number of people affected.

    Nassau County Emergency Management said the official shelter for displaced residents is being established in cooperation with the American Red Cross at Bryceville First Baptist Church, 7732 U.S. Hwy. 301 in Bryceville.

    Bryceville First Baptist Church will be open all night, as residents are not allowed back home until the fire is completely contained.

    The Florida Highway Patrol said other shelters include Callahan First Baptist, 45090 Green Avenue, and Gray Gables Church, 54031 Church Road in Callahan.

    Nassau County Emergency Management said residents will not be allowed to return to their homes until it is considered safe to do so.


    Help for pets and animals is available for those having to evacuate due to the fire. All Paws Pet Boarding, 8356 U.S. Hwy. 301, still has room for some animals -- dogs and cats only. If you have crates, you're asked to bring them. Pet owners are asked to bring vaccination history if possible.

    The Walker Quarter Horse Farm, 14452 Normandy Blvd., Jacksonville, is helping families with horses who had to evacuate. Sixteen stalls are available for free; just bring feed, hay and supplies.

    Also offering help for horses is Diamond D. Ranch, 5903-1 Solomon Road, Jacksonville, 32234, 904-289-9331; and C3 Ranch, 3490 Otis Road, Jacksonville, 32220, will be going to find loose horses and dogs and collecting loose saddles and bridles.

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