The massive wildfire near Hernando Beach is now 100 percent contained by Friday afternoon.
- Crews working 1,100-acre wildfire near Hernando Beach
- Fire 100 percent contained at 1 p.m. Friday
- No homes threatened or evacuations
- INTERACTIVE MAP: Current Wildfires in Florida
- Brushfire coverage
The Division of Forestry said the fire has burned about 1,100 acres in the Weeki Wachee Preserve area since it started early Sunday morning. Officials said the fire likely started from a lightning strike.
Hernando County Fire urged residents to remain cautious. Even a discarded cigarette could trigger problems.
Crews conducted what they called a "300 acre burnout" on Monday within the the 1,100-acre blaze. East winds proved helpful to firefighters on Monday.
No evacuations have been ordered, and so far no homes have been damaged.
The pre-established road closure on Shoal Line Boulevard has been canceled, but motorists are urged to still use caution when traveling the roadway.
2 homes, church, water tower saved (Leah Masuda)
The Florida Forest Service says a water tower, two homes, and a church were saved from the fire.
As the fire grew Sunday morning, members at First Baptist Church of Hernando Beach started to pray.
"The fire was all the way up to the back part of the church," said choir director Leslie Tomlinson.
There would be no service Sunday but members still gathered together.
"Your church is your home, the people that join you there that's your church family, so it was to us our home was in jeopardy," said Tomlinson.
As the flames grew, so did their faith. Monday Pastor Mark Walton and Tomlinson looked on with relief.
"We don’t believe in coincidences and we certainly believe God spared the church," said Walton. "It isn’t the first time this half-century-old church was spared from natural disaster."
“We've had floods, fires, and those kinds of things and it certainly keeps you on your knees, humble and praying," said Walton.
On Monday, charred trees showed just how close the fire drew to the building, still standing tall.
"Our church has been through a lot. We are small but we are very mighty and we're very blessed," said Tomlinson.
The church expressed how grateful they are to all those who helped save their home. They will be personally inviting the firefighters to their Easter service Sunday.
Life returning to normal for residents, businesses (Kim Leoffler)
As the smoke started to die down and roads began to reopen following a massive wildfire in Hernando County, residents in the Hernando Beach area tried to go about their daily routines.
Monday morning, Nancy Emrich woke up to ashes covering her deck.
"We had never experienced that before. So it was quite exciting and also at the same time upsetting, scary because we could smell the smoke from our house which was less than a quarter of a mile from where the fire was,” Emrich said.
"It's interesting to live out here, because not only do you think about hurricanes and water rising like we did in September last year, but now we have experienced a brush fire,” she added.
Businesses that had to close because of the fire are beginning to reopen.
Many businesses along Shoal Line Boulevard had to close on Sunday, re-opening their doors Monday.
"Well, usually we're pretty busy on Sundays," said Arianna Bradley, waitress at Zig Zag Scallop. "We do live music, and we had to close down because you couldn't get down the roads. I was just more worried about the structure being impacted. So I'm thankful that it didn't happen."
Since the fire broke out, residents said they've all been trying to come together. Many even brought food and water supplies to the Coast Guard station where first responders were staging.
"We just try to work as a community. We're pretty close knit when it comes to surviving, getting through, and supporting each other,” Emrich said.