Over 3,500 rental cars were destroyed on Friday when a fire broke out in the grassy overflow area of Southwest Florida International Airport.
A Lee County Port Authority spokesperson told CNN that the fire originally only affected 20 cars that were parked in the rental car overflow area. Authorities were called around 5 p.m. By the time the fire was extinguished, it had spread through 15 acres.
“By the time we had units on the scene, we had 100 cars (on fire). We lost count after the hundreds,” said Melinda Avni, Mitigation Specialist for Florida Forestry Service of Caloosahatchee.
Several fire departments and ground and aerial support from Florida Forestry Service arrived to put out the fire. At least 80 airdrops were made by the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office’s aviation unit.
The fire was contained by 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, almost 18 hours after it began.
“We appreciate their courage and willingness to help our Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Department. Together they were able to keep all our passengers and airport visitors safe,” the airport said in a Facebook post.
No injuries had resulted from the fire. The airport remained open and continued service, though the inbound lanes of Terminal Access Road were closed. Passengers were bussed inside from the employee parking lot.
A total of 3,516 rental cars were destroyed or damaged. The cars were being stored at the time and were not in service.
The Avis Budget Group confirmed that some of the company’s vehicles were caught in the blaze. The company is still evaluating the damage and does not have a final vehicle count at this time. Eight other companies were also affected by the fire.
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