What started as a controlled burn in southwest Florida quickly grew out of control. And making matters worse, as firefighters tried to get a handle on that blaze, an arsonist set off more than a dozen others, reports CBS News Correspondent Bobbi Harley.
"It looked like a war zone. I've been with the department 17 years and I've never seen anything like this," said Capt. Ellen Kehoe of the North Port, Fla. fire department.
The wildfires stretched through thousands of acres, destroying or damaging several homes and forcing more than 100 residents to flee.
"It was chaos," described fire victim Anthony Garguilo. It was like nothing I've seen before and I come from New York and I've seen everything and I ain't never seen nothing like this before."
Compounding the situation, Florida is at its driest ever. Like a tinderbox ready to go up in flames, the state is struggling through the worst drought in its history.
The drought's taken such a toll in Miami-Dade County, Florida's largest, that the harshest water restrictions to date have taken effect. It's so bad, if you go out to eat, you can't expect to get even a glass of water.
Also off-limits: any kind of pressure cleaning and all decorative fountains have trickled their last drip for now. The forecast doesn't call for any substantial rain for weeks to come.
But the crueler reality may be the threat of fire already well more than 100,000 acres have gone up in smoke this season. Through April 10, nearly 2,000 wildfires had burned more than 138,000 acres and damaged or destroyed 43 homes in Florida.
"All of our clothes, all our everything jewelry, housewares, everything just gone," said Maria Delfa, a fire victim.
While authorities believe they've finally gained some control over the latest outbreak, they know the tiniest spark could start it all over again.
©MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report