Gable McKechnie, whose family was displaced by Hurricane Irma seven months ago, came home Sunday to find flames and heavy smoke choking her Big Pine Key neighborhood.
"We've barely recovered from Irma," McKechnie said Monday, showing a visitor her four horses, pony and miniature donkey named Rocky on her two-acre lot. "We lost three of four barns."
The McKechnies had to move from Summerland Key after Irma because the landlord wanted the home. So now they live in an RV parked on the Big Pine lot they had used only for their animals. They got a call Sunday afternoon that the brush fire near their home was getting worse.
She and her husband arrived home and rushed to pack up their animals, including a cat and a bulldog.
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"No cellphone charger, no change of clothes," she said. "The animals were it. All I cared about."
The livestock stayed at the Monroe County Sheriff's Animal Farm until the McKenchnies could come home Monday. Sunday night, they rented a house on Cudjoe Key for $100 for the night.
Firefighters worked through the night after a brush fire that broke out on Big Pine spread quickly across the Lower Keys island and tore through about 100 acres.
"We did not lose any ground or any more structures last night," Marty Senterfitt, the Monroe County Emergency Management director, said Monday morning. "Many people worked long hours without sleep to protect people's homes and prevent the fire from spreading."
On Monday, a helicopter carrying water was circling the neighborhood off Wilder Boulevard but the heavy smoke and flames bursting through wooded areas on Sunday had subsided. Tiny flare-ups and still-smoldering trees were popping up along 19th Street and nearby roads.
Scattered hotspots remain throughout the path of the fire, which began along Hibiscus Drive and moved toward Fern Avenue, said county spokeswoman Cammy Clark.
But there has been good news.
"There remains no reports of injuries from the fire," Clark said.
Monroe County officials said the fire was 50 percent contained as of 7 p.m. Monday.
"There is the strong possibility of flare-ups, especially during the hottest part of the day," Clark said. "The crews' priorities are to protect people’s homes and prevent the fire from spreading."
People who do not live on Big Pine Key should avoid the area, especially around Key Deer Boulevard, county officials said Monday.
So far, the cause of the fire is unknown, Clark said.
The state Fire Marshal, Monroe County Fire Rescue, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Forest Service will be working together on the investigation.
One home and a separate garage were destroyed, she said.
Firefighters from several agencies, including Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and Naval Air Station Key West, were called in, according to 911 radio traffic.
Power was cut to about 1,900 Keys Energy customers at the request of firefighters.
Emergency dispatchers reported at 3:17 p.m. Sunday that both sides of Lyttons Way and Wilder Road were on fire.