LAKE KATHRYN — The 1,000-acre fire in northeast Lake County that sparked evacuations of residents along Deerhaven Road and swift reaction from multiple firefighting agencies is now 50 percent contained. According to fire officials, rain and low winds aided efforts Thursday to control the blaze and favorable weather patterns are expected to continue throughout Friday.
Recap of Lake County information for the Tracy Fire in the Ocala National Forest:
• At approximately 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, a small brush fire of about 40-50 acres broke out in the area of Jane Lane and County Road 42, which is near the unincorporated Lake County community of Lake Kathryn. Nine stations from the Lake County Fire Rescue Division responded, in addition to mutual aid from the municipal fire departments of Minneola, Tavares, Eustis and Mount Dora, and Volusia County Fire Services. A unified command was set up with the aid of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Lake-Sumter EMS mobile command trailers. Throughout Wednesday and Thursday, units from the Florida Division of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service joined county and municipal fire agencies.
• Approximately 100 homes that use Deerhaven Road as the primary access to County Road 42 were asked to evacuate as the fire quickly spread to nearly 600 acres. Firefighters worked to keep the blaze away from homes, but another threat was the fire cutting off residents’ escape route.
• The American Red Cross established a shelter at the First Baptist Church of Paisley. With the threat of a possible change in wind direction, the U.S. Forest Service extended the evacuation period until Thursday afternoon. Emergency officials thanked evacuated residents for their patience, after they were asked to stay away from the area for about 22 hours.
• According to the American Red Cross, 21 evacuees sheltered at the First Baptist Church of Paisley Wednesday night. The American Red Cross fed 250 evacuees, support personnel and emergency responders Wednesday night as well as an additional 110 for breakfast Thursday morning.
• The Lake County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), located in the Lake County Administration Building in downtown Tavares, activated at a level 2, partial activation, on Wednesday to assist with coordinating resources for the multi-agency response. The EOC is now at a level three, monitoring.
• The Lake County Citizens Information Line was available to answer residents’ questions on Wednesday and Thursday. In a 24-hour period, the hotline received nearly 350 calls.
• The Lake County Health Department issued a health advisory due to the wildfire smoke. Smoke is a respiratory irritant, and can cause scratchy throat, irritated eyes, nose and worsen conditions such as asthma and other chronic respiratory or lung conditions. If it is smoky outside avoid prolonged outdoor activities. It is especially important to limit time spent outdoors for children and persons with existing medical conditions.