Roads closed, some evacuations lifted in Collier brush fire

NAPLES, Fla. Alligator Alley is expected to remain closed overnight between State Road 29 (mile marker 80) and Golden Gate Parkway (mile marker 105) due to limited visibility and hazardous conditions from smoke and flames near the highway, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Morning commuters are encouraged to make necessary travel adjustments, leave early and expect delays.

Here’s the latest from the ongoing brush fire:

Road closures

If travelling eastbound on I-75, motorists are advised to take exit 105 (Golden Gate Parkway) to U.S. 41, turn left onto U.S. 41 and take it to State Road 29, then turn left onto State Road 29 to re-access I-75.

If travelling westbound on I-75, take exit 80 (State Road 29) north if you’re travelling north, but if heading south, take State Road 29 to U.S. 41, then turn right.

Collier Boulevard is also closed between Golden Gate Parkway and Rattlesnake Hammond Road until further notice, emergency officials said.

WINK News reporter Megan Contreras spoke live with Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Greg Bueno regarding road conditions:

S. Hames McKenna captured video of the smoke and flames while travelling on Alligator Alley:

Fire details

The fire has grown to 6,000 acres and was 30 percent contained as of Tuesday evening, said officials, who added that more than 120 firefighters from across the state are battling the blaze.

“High winds, dry vegetation, and low relative humidity have been a challenge for firefighters to quickly suppress,” the Florida Forest Service said in a statement.

Two homes were lost in the fire, one on Benfield Road and one on Le Buffs Road, county officials said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

County officials opened an emergency hotline to answer questions regarding the wildfire: (239) 252-8444. Collier County residents can dial 311 to access the hotline, which officials said will be open until further notice.

The hotline has already received hundreds of calls, officials said.

The area is under a dense smoke advisory until 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Here’s aerial video from Monday night shot by the Immokalee Fire Control District:

Evacuations 

Residents of Forest Glen Country Club and the Aventine at Naples Apartments are now allowed to return to their homes, according to a press release.

The preferred route to return to those neighborhoods is from Collier Boulevard heading south. Residents will need to display identification to the Collier County deputies on scene for re-entry.

However, evacuation orders remain for Panther Walk RV Park and Club Naples RV Resort, both on Beck Blvd, and the horse stables along Newman Drive, according to the state forest service.

Donald Schaefer, who was evacuated from Club Naples, saw black smoke before Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputies told him to leave the area.

“My wife was getting a little excited, so we are just grabbing whatever we could grab our hands on,” he said. “I grabbed my computers and put them in the car because we had been living with this about a day or so but we always thought that it would pass us, that it wasn’t going to be coming our way.”

Schaefer’s greatest fear is that his home will be destroyed by fire.

“Right now it’s just turning out to be a story, someday it’ll be a good story we can tell but we’re living it,” he said. “You don’t know from day to day what’s going to happen.”

The Golden Gate Community Center, 4701 Golden Gate Pkwy., is the only shelter available, Red Cross officials said.

Power is out to Beck Boulevard, the Naples Club RV Resort and the Panther’s Walk RV Resort due to fire damage to lines and power poles. Restoration efforts will not begin until daylight tomorrow as fire conditions allow, according to county officials.

The American Red Cross has provided over 500 meals to residents and first responders at the shelters, the organization said.

Southern Truck Nation donated 20,000 water bottles to families in need and firefighters, which are located at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

Here’s more from WINK News reporter Kelsey Kushner:

Students and staff at Lely Elementary School were evacuated to Calusa Park Elementary Tuesday morning due to brush fire smoke, Collier County schools said.

District officials will decide at 6 a.m. Wednesday whether school will be open.

Tips from the Florida Forest Service

Items to take if you have to evacuate:

  • People and pets
  • Prescriptions
  • Papers
  • Personal needs
  • Priceless items

If advised to evacuate:

  • Wear protective clothing – sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
  • Take your disaster supplies kit.
  • Lock your home.
  • Tell someone when you left and where you are going.
  • Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.

If you’re warned that a wildfire is threatening your area:

  • Listen to your local media for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials.
  • Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
  • Confine pets to one room; make plans to take your pets in case you must evacuate.
  • Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.

If you have time, here’s how to protect your home:

Inside

  • Close windows, vents, doors, blinds, or noncombustible window coverings and heavy drapes. Remove lightweight curtains.
  • Shut off all utilities if possible, including bottled gas.
  • Open fireplace damper. Close fireplace screens.
  • Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and sliding glass doors.
  • Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.

Outside

  • Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut noncombustible coverings.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Place combustible patio furniture inside.
  • Connect the garden hose to outside taps.
  • Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near above ground fuel tanks. Wetting the roof may help if it is shake-shingled.
  • Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.
Reporter:Olivia Mancino
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