3,516 Lightly Optioned Cars Burn in Florida

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
3 516 lightly optioned cars burn in florida

A weekend blaze cut short the lifespans of more than 3,500 vehicles packed tightly into a single massive overflow lot near Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida.

While the cause of the vehicular firestorm has not yet been determined, the resulting carnage is something to see. Despite dozens of water drops by local sheriff’s office helicopters, the overflow lot, ringed with acres of dry grass, proved the perfect econobox tinderbox.

Whether the late-Friday fire originated as a grass fire or turned into one is not known, but the towering blaze fueled by the gasoline, engine oil, tires, hoses, belts, and fabrics of thousands of vehicles backstopping the airport’s rental agencies soon spread to a nearby forest.


“By the time we had units on the scene, we had 100 cars (on fire). We lost count after the hundreds,” Melinda Avni, Mitigation Specialist for Florida Forestry Service of Caloosahatchee, told CNN.

The fire burned into Saturday, ultimately consuming 15 acres of land, forest, and rental lot. Multiple fire departments, in addition to the forestry service and Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, played a role in bringing the situation under control.

After firefighters extinguished the last ember, the Lee County Port Authority announced the loss of 3,516 vehicles.

Just completed 90 minutes of LIVE coverage of the RSW car fire for .

NEW information just in from @FFS_cafc:

10 acres

20 cars involved

85% contained

Back in the control room for team coverage on @winknews at 10 and 11.

Video credit: Robert T pic.twitter.com/5YKStzxdr0

— Lenny Smith (@lensmith22) April 4, 2020

Rental cars face a harsh early life and quick depreciation, but the vehicles immolated in Fort Myers barely had a chance to start their inglorious careers. Photos from the scene show a distinctive lack of Nissan sedans, Dodge Chargers, and various other rental favorites, though it could just be the vantage point that’s to blame. Without a doubt, they’re in there.

When the coronavirus pandemic’s grip on the U.S. auto industry eases, automakers can expect healthy fleet orders from southwest Florida.

[Image: welcomia/shutterstock]

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4 of 48 comments
  • TS020 TS020 on Apr 07, 2020

    Wow, that's a lot of CARnage... I'll see myself out

  • 6250Claimer 6250Claimer on Apr 07, 2020

    Once I had a clothing store Business, it was bad Asked my Uncle Murray what to do, this is what he said Take a can of gasoline, pour it on the floor Take a match, Make a scratch, No more clothing store

  • SCE to AUX A friend once struck a mounted tire that was laying flat in the middle of her lane on the PA Turnpike. She was in a low late-90s Grand Prix, and the impact destroyed the facia, core support, radiators, oil pan, transmission, subframe, and suspension. They fixed it all.
  • Dukeisduke Lol, it's not exactly a Chevrolet SS with Holden badging.
  • Dukeisduke Years ago, I was driving southbound along North Central Expressway (south of Mockingbird Lane, for locals), and watched a tire and wheel fall out of the bed of a pickup (no tailgate), bounce along, then centerpunch the front end of a Honda Accord. It wasn't pretty.
  • Dukeisduke If these were built in the US, they'd probably be plagued with recalls, like everything else Ford makes now. It's just as well they don't bring them here.I've owned one Ford, a '95 F-150 (drove it for 17 years and 214k miles) and it was fantastic. But you couldn't run fast enough to get me to buy another Ford. Quality used to be Job 1; now it's an afterthought.
  • Dukeisduke "side-to-side taillights""Across-the-border" is the phrase you're looking for - it's what Ford called the taillights on the '67-'68 and '70-'71 Thunderbirds.