Thousands of rental cars burn in Fort Myers

FORT MYERS — A fire broke out Friday afternoon at the Southwest Florida International Airport in a rental car overflow lot. More than 3,500 vehicles were destroyed, and 15 acres were burned. Another 3,800 vehicles were parked in the lot but were undamaged.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office
FORT MYERS — More than 3,500 rental cars held in a grassy field were destroyed in a fiery inferno Friday night, April 3.

Melinda Avni, wildfire mitigation specialist for the Florida Forest Service, said they were called to assist multiple Lee County fire units with a multiple vehicle fire moving into the brush at 5:30 p.m., and they arrived at about 5:50 p.m. At that time, the brush fire was 5 to 6 acres and moving into the woods. The number of vehicles involved had increased from 20 to 100.

There were four dozer units (tractor plows) working the flank to put in a perimeter firebreak and two helicopters assisting with water drops. The helicopters were retired at sundown per regulations and the dozers continued until 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. At that time, the wildfire was 95% contained. The structure cooperators were working against the vehicles on fire.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Fort Myers Fire Department
FORT MYERS — Firefighters fought the flames as 3,516 vehicles were destroyed.

They monitored overnight and had the fire 100% contained by 10:30 on Saturday morning. On Sunday, there was no sign of any hotspots remaining, said Ms. Avni.

Lee County Port Authority Communications Director Victoria Moreland said there were 3,516 cars either damaged or destroyed by the fire. None of the vehicles were occupied, and no injuries were reported.

There were two helicopters fighting the fire. The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office’s Huey helicopter, flown by Chief Pilot Shane Engelauf, made more than 80 drops over the fire. The second helicopter was one belonging to the Florida Forest Service from the Caloosahatchee District. The pilot was Christopher McNeil.

The size of the fire and property threatened triggered a countywide response, and these departments responded: Airport Fire Department, Iona-McGregor Fire Department, Lehigh Acres Fire Department, Estero Fire Department, Bayshore Fire Department, City of Fort Myers Fire Department, Fort Myers Beach Fire Department, Bonita Springs Fire Department, Sanibel Fire Department, San Carlos Fire Department, South Trail Fire Department and Florida Forest Service.

Due to the stay-home orders in so many states, rental car companies have an abundance of cars on their hands at this time and had to have somewhere to park them, so they ended up at the airport in the overflow lot. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment