Teens with fireworks sparked Lithia brush fire, authorities say - FOX 13 News

Teens with fireworks sparked Lithia brush fire, authorities say

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Investigators said they've found the kids who started a brush fire in the Fishhawk Ranch neighborhood. Apparently, they were playing with fireworks.

There were several teenagers involved, and word of who was responsible spread almost as fast as the fire.

Their faces looked mortified as a Hillsborough Sheriff's Deputy told them what a world of trouble they caused, for recklessly playing with fireworks in the woods.

Then, there were the stern looks on their parents faces, who are worried now they're ultimately responsible for the charred mess.

"We were within arm's length of touching the actual fire," said Victor Sanchez.

It was his 'Hail Mary' moment of his Good Friday.

"I would say it was so close, as God is my witness, we would have been able to do smores out of it," said Sanchez. "That's how close it got."

He reversed the pumps on his pool and began spraying the area until first responders took over.

"Oh, just in time ain't the word," said Sanchez. "Because what it did to the neighbor's fence, it definitely would have burned my house, the neighbor's house and the house next to ours."

Doug Gilmore, who lives nearby, sent us video he shot as the fire got close to his house and threatened 30 other homes.

It came within 20 feet of Bevis Elementary School. Luckily, students were off for the holiday weekend. But fire investigators said several teenagers playing with fireworks triggered the blaze.

"As the fire was coming through, you heard firecrackers going off," said Sanchez. "So, we believe they threw whatever they had in the woods, to try to cover their tracks."

Hillsborough Sheriff's deputies talked with the boys. There's no word yet if they face any criminal charges.

"With the low humidity right now, and we're getting into the 80's again, the temperatures going up, stuff can smolder for several days," said Abe Philipson, Senior Ranger with the Florida Forest Service.

The fire took out ten acres. A neighbor rescued Will Sollars' dogs.

"I have an English Labrador, he's black, his name is Junior," said Sollars. "Is he ok?," we asked. "Yeah. And I have a basset hound-Labrador mix named Holly," he said. "And she's ok too?," we asked. "Yes sir!," he said.

Sollars found a baby snake, frozen in time, which probably died from smoke inhalation and the extreme heat. He also found a scooter and bike that are toasted to a crisp. The fire may be gone, but the smell will likely linger for weeks.

"I always wanted to be a firefighter," said Sanchez wistfully. "Today was my day!"

Fire investigators said they have an intervention program for teenagers, a sort of a scared-straight experience, to let them know what real danger they put the entire community in, in lieu of any juvenile detention time.

And a big question remains, will the Fishhawk Neighborhood Association have to sue the parents of those kids to pay for the repairs of people's property and replacing all the trees?

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