Large fire tears through pallet facility in Haines City

By Fallon Silcox and Stephanie Claytor, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 4:41 PM EDT

More than 50 firefighters from multiple Polk county agencies battled a massive fire at a wooden pallets business in Haines City around 2:45 a.m. Wednesday.

  • Fire at Monison Pallets, located at 3100 U.S. Highway 17
  • Evacuations in immediate area of fire
  • One Haines City fire fighter suffered minor injuries

Polk County Fire Rescue assisted Haines City firefighters at Monison Pallets, located at 3100 U.S. Highway 17.

Several nearby mobile homes were evacuated after flames broke out just before 3 a.m. at the facility. Those residents were allowed back in their homes just before 8 a.m. 

Resident Petronella Whyte was one of the people evacuated.

“I see the fire way up," said Whyte. "I said 'Jesus, it’s right in the way of my house,' and my two grandkids was there. That’s all I’m thinking about."

With the road blocked, she ditched her car and ran to rescue them.

“When they told me I couldn’t come down here, that’s when I feel like, 'no, I have to go because my grandkids are right here. I got to go,'” Whyte recalled.

She got her grandkids out of the home safely. Her home sits adjacent to the back of the Monison Pallets property, near where the fire started.

Haines City Fire Chief Stuart McCutcheon said it took a little more than two hours to get the fire under control. Throughout the morning, his fire fighters remained on site putting out hot spots.

The heat was so intense, it destroyed the back side of Whyte’s home. Fortunately, nothing was damaged inside.

“I’m thankful to God, I’m thankful,” Whyte said.

US Highway 17-92 was initially closed in both directions. Both eastbound lanes and one westbound lane are now back open. 

Firefighters found flames shooting high into the air at the large facility as stacks of pallets continued to burn. 

Officials have not released information on how the fire started. 

A Haines City firefighter suffered minor injuries while managing the hose line, Chief McCutcheon said. He was released from the hospital shortly after.

The owner of Monison pallets did not want to talk on camera. He told Bay News 9 thousands of pallets were on the property and he hopes to reopen on Thursday.