More than 3,500 rental cars were damaged or destroyed in a huge fire that burned near a Florida airport.
The cars were in a grassy area used as an overflow lot by car rental companies at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers when thousands of vehicles caught fire.
Firefighters managed to contain the blaze using helicopters to dump water on the flames that stretched across the lot late on Friday night.
Witnesses said they heard multiple small explosions and flames leaping high into the air as the flames spread across the area.
By around 8pm, the fire appeared to be spreading with the flames getting higher even as two helicopters continued to drop water and firetrucks emptied their tanks in a bid to halt the spread of the blaze.
Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office said that ‘over 80 drops’ were made over ‘this massive fire’.
The Sheriff’s Office posted a series of images showing the extent of the damage to thousands of vehicles.
Pictures from after the inferno was extinguished showed rows or burnt out cars spread across the lot.
It is thought the car rental parking lot was busier then usual due o the coronavirus lockdown as fewer customers had hired vehicles while most flights are suspended and travel restrictions in place.
Another 3,850 vehicles were undamaged, according to airport spokeswoman Vicki Moreland.
Melinda Avni, Mitigation Specialist for Florida Forestry Service of Caloosahatchee, said authorities were called to put out the blaze at around 5pm, when around 20 vehicles were on fire.
She told WINK: ‘By the time we had units on the scene, we had 100 cars [on fire]. We lost count after the hundreds.’
The vehicles were not occupied, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.
Arlene Salac, a spokeswoman for the FAA, said the fire did not effect air traffic or operations at the airport.
In a Facebook post, the airport thanked all the agencies who responded to the blaze, saying: ‘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.’
Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fire.
On Saturday morning, the Forest Service returned to the scene to make sure the fire did not start again.