Only some lingering smoke remained Saturday morning after a prescribed burn spread unexpectedly Friday and flames came within 50 feet of some homes in the gated Glen Lakes golf community.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission started the burn about 10 a.m. and planned to end it around 2 p.m. But the wind shifted suddenly and the fire spread.
FWC officials called in help from from the Florida Division of Forestry and fire departments from Spring Hill and Hernando, Citrus and Pasco Counties, authorities said.
Residents in the community west of U.S. 19 saw a wall of fire coming towards their backyards.
"Well, we thought we were going to lose it," homeowner Joanne Moroz said. "The fire line was going right through the bushes, and we were out spraying the lanai and the roof of the house.
"And all of a sudden, they told us there was voluntary evacuations. An then ... the trees behind the house just totally exploded just like you see in the movies."
Planned for 200 acres, the fire tore through some 500 acres by Friday evening, officials said. Smoke spread across Hernando County, and the blue was so large, it registered on Bay News 9's Klystron radar.
Some residents questioned the timing of the controlled burn.
"It's not a good thing," homeowner Larry Willis said. "There was a lot of manpower, a lot of expense involved in something that shouldn't have happened when you know that the weather and the conditions are so dry."
But Florida Forest Service spokesman Don Ruth said the conditions were almost perfect for a controlled burn.
"This time of year, with late spring rains that we just recently had, the conditions are actually ideal to go out and do prescribed burning," he said. "And what they were doing was removing this hazardous vegetation behind the homes that, if a wildfire occurred, presented a greater threat.
"Unfortunately, what happened was they had a wind shift and it got outside the lines," said Ruth.
Residents say firefighters did a good job of protecting their homes.
"It was a safe operation," Ruth said. "Nobody was injured. No homes have been damaged. There were no structures destroyed."