Florida man’s book bonfire causes wildfire and destroys neighbours’ homes

Chantal Da Silva
The wildfire burned an estimated 696 acres of land outside Jacksonville, a large city in the southeastern state: Reuters

A wildfire in Florida that has destroyed two homes was caused by a man illegally burning paperback books, officials say.

The Florida Forest Service (FFS) said the fire, which has been called the Garfield Road Fire, burned an estimated 696 acres of land outside Jacksonville, a large city in the southeastern state.

As many as 200 residents were forced to evacuate their homes and stay at nearby shelters, according to Reuters.

And a number of emergency responders suffered minor injuries during efforts to put out the flames, the FFS said.

Hitting CR119 earlier today #GarfieldRoadFire in Nassau County pic.twitter.com/sDw7zXBttf

— FL Forest Service (@FLForestService) March 23, 2017

The fire service said the blaze started on Wednesday afternoon and was “caused by someone burning paperback books”.

Strong winds blew the papers from the initial burn site, causing the flames to spread.

The man accused of starting the fire was cited for an illegal burn but was not charged with a crime, FFS spokeswoman Annaleasa Winter told Reuters.

“This was not malicious,” Winter said. “But he will be liable for the cost of fighting the fire and any damage done.”

The fire service has warned that “burning household garbage is illegal in Florida”.

As many as 200 residents were forced to evacuate their homes and stay at nearby shelters, according to Reuters.

More than 170 emergency responders have been working to fight the flames.

The FFS’s Jacksonville branch said the wildfire had been contained by up to 75 per cent by Friday afternoon.

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