Eastpoint fire 3 years later: ‘These families have been languishing a long time’

Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 11:02 AM EDT
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EASTPOINT, Fla. (WCTV) - A fast-moving fire roared through an Eastpoint neighborhood three years ago Thursday, scorching dozens of homes and forcing people to run for their lives.

The fire destroyed 36 homes and burned more than 800 acres.

“It all got burned up,” Glenn Woodall said as he surveyed the damage to his property on Wilderness Road the next day. “I lost everything.”

“Everybody on this road and Ridge Road could’ve died, just like that,” another resident told WCTV that day.

The State of Florida later revealed a controlled burn by a state contractor sparked the wildfire.

The Florida Department of Agriculture told WCTV just days after the fire that Wildlands Fire Services, Inc. was conducting the controlled burn on behalf of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Court records show there are dozens of families that have filed suit against Wildlands Services. Most of those negligence suits were filed soon after the fire in 2018 and 2019, but according to court records, none of the lawsuits have been resolved.

Tallahassee-based attorney Doug Lyons represents more than 60 families who are waiting for relief.

“These families have been languishing for a long time,” Lyons said. Lyons has been pushing for the lawsuits to be combined and certified as a class-action lawsuit.

Lyons says an order certifying this as a class-action lawsuit was signed and will soon be filed in the wake of a hearing on June 14.

“We are trying to make sure everyone is treated fairly so there is no race to the courthouse and everyone gets a fair settlement,” Lyons said.

Court records show there are at least 15 negligence suits filed in Leon County and 11 more filed in Franklin County.

Court records also show two of the plaintiffs have since died.

Lyons says there are at least two others who have passed away while awaiting a settlement. He says their estates would be in line to receive any payments.

We reached out to the attorney representing Wildlands Services for comment on the anniversary and why it is taking so long to settle these claims.

“Our law firm has a long-standing policy of not commenting on pending lawsuits,” Cecil Davis said. “I am sorry that I cannot give you any details.”

WCTV has a crew in Eastpoint talking with some of the families who lost everything three years ago. Look for Emma Wheeler with live reports on Eyewitness News Thursday evening.

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