UPDATE 10:50p.m. - The wildfire in the Big Cypress National Preserve has burned 35,850 acres as of Monday evening. The southern portion of the controlled burn has been successful and fire crews will focus on the northwest corner on Tuesday. Smoke may become an issue later in the day for Naples and Fort Myers due to an possible change in wind direction.
COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - A wildfire in the Big Cypress National Preserve is burning 28,800 acres as of Monday. While it's 60 percent contained at this time, it's also creeping closer and closer to US 41, creating poor driving conditions.
"I was surprised it was as close to 41 as it was," one driver passing through the Oasis rest stop told WINK News.
Drivers making their way across the Everglades, using US 41 may not be ready for the amount of smoke they encounter. Some were even snapping a roadside picture at the fire burning less than a mile away.
"I talked to some people this morning and they were like, 'we never see anything like this in Europe', " Dan Bastion, Jr. said. He's busy at the Oasis rest stop, situated halfway between Miami and Naples, giving out information to drivers.
So far, he's had a steady flow, about 10 people every hour. Bastion points out on the map where the fire is in relation to drivers. Most want to know if the roads are open and how big the fire is.
For now, US 41 is open; however, weather could change that and drivers need to pay attention.
"We had a couple of areas for a couple of hours where the smoke was pretty heavy," Fire Information Officer Jim Payne said.
Besides warning drivers, firefighters were focused on trying to contain the northwest corner of the fire. It's currently burning about six miles from another widely traveled road, Interstate 75.
Payne says drivers can concentrate on being cautious and not on finding another route at this time.
The containment date of May 18th may even be moved sooner, and Payne told WINK News that crews may starting leaving the area as soon as this weekend.