A massive fire that spread through 15 acres of a vacant field being used as an overflow parking lot at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) destroyed more than 3,500 rental cars on Friday, Lee County Port Authority officials said.
The blaze began Friday afternoon and originally involved only about 20 cars, but as fire crews worked overnight to try and get the fire extinguished, by the next morning, the flames had damaged and destroyed thousands of cars. Investigators say brush surrounding the overflow lot caught fire, and assisted with the rapid spread of the flames. The fire also sent enormous black plumes of smoke that could be seen for miles around billowing into the air near Fort Myers, where the airport is located.
Fire crews were assisted by ground and aerial water drops provided by Florida Forestry Service and other nearby fire departments. At least 80 airdrops were made on the fire near the airport, the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office said.
Another 3,800 rental cars that belonged to the various rental car agencies that service RSW were undamaged by the blaze and relocated to another location. No structures at the airport were affected and no injuries were reported.
The cause of the fire is currently under investigation, officials said.
"Thank you to the regional mutual aid fire departments and Division of Forestry for their heroic efforts in aiding RSW in last night's fire," the airport wrote on its Facebook page, thanking the first responders. "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."
Photo: Charlotte County Sheriff's Office