Largest wildfire in U.S. continues to burn 30 miles from Naples

BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, Fla. — More than 35,000 acres of dense, tropical brush continues to burn in a cluster of wildfires in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Southern Florida.

More than 300 federal, state and private fire crews from across the country have been assigned to containment efforts of the Mud Lake Complex fire which has burned for 20 consecutive days.

Fire officials believe most of the fires were started by lightning strikes.

The fire is roughly half contained and has cost nearly $6.3 million to date.  Fire officials say keeping the public safe and keeping highways open makes it worth the price tag.

“How the fire affects the local residents, like I-75,” said fire section chief Jennifer Hinckley. “It’s a huge corridor. we don’t want to affect anyone by letting smoke land on the road, and thereby causing an accident because somebody couldn’t see ahead of them. That’s a big deal.”

The Mud Lake Complex fire is composed of 10 different fires located within close proximity of either side of I-75.  Fire crews from federal, state and private agencies have been able to keep smoke and flames from shutting down the highway.

Thursday’s incident status summary shows no homes have been destroyed and no civilians have been injured, however the report shows 104 single residences are currently threatened as well as less than 100 other structures.

Wildfires are a part of the natural cycle of the Southern-Florida swamplands and wilderness, however this is the largest fire the area has seen in years.  Summer rains have yet to arrive to flood the wetlands of the Everglades and nearby Big Cypress National Preserve, putting an end to wildfires once and for all.

“We need rain,” Hinckley said. “The end will be when it starts raining.”