Fire Erupts Near Florida Airport, Destroying or Damaging Over 3,500 Rental Cars

Eric Todisco

Over 3,500 rental cars were damaged or destroyed in a fire that burned near Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers Friday night.

Fire department officials told CNN that the fire spanned 15 acres and originally involved 20 cars in the grassy rental car overflow area at the airport. The blaze eventually spread through the grassy area, requiring firetrucks and two helicopters to drop water to contain it.

By the time the fire was completely extinguished several hours later, roughly 3,516 cars were damaged or destroyed, Vicki Moreland, communications director for the airport, told USA Today.

None of the cars damaged or destroyed in the fire were occupied.

Witnesses were cited saying they saw and heard small explosions, flames jumping high in the air, and showers of sparks.

The fire triggered responses from Airport Fire Department, South Trail Fire Department, Lehigh Acres Fire Department, Estero Fire Department, San Carlos Fire Department, Bayshore Fire Department, City of Fort Myers Fire Department, Fort Myers Beach Fire Department, Bonita Springs Fire Department, Sanibel Fire Department and Iona-McGregor Fire Department.

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The cause of the fire is still being investigated by the State Fire Marshal, Moreland said.

The Forest Service returned to the scene the next morning to confirm that the fire did not pick back up again, Melinda Avni, Forest Service mitigation specialist, told USA Today.

In a Facebook post, the airport thanked the departments who responded to the blaze.

“Thank you to the regional mutual aid fire departments and Division of Forestry for their heroic efforts in aiding RSW in last night’s fire We appreciate their courage and willingness to help our Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting department. Together they were able to keep all our passengers and airport visitors safe,” the post read.

The airport remains fully functional and the inbound lanes of Terminal Access Road reopened at 11 p.m. local time Friday, airport officials said.