Wildfire burns estimated 3,300 acres in Big Cypress preserve

OCHOPEE, Fla. A wildfire is burning an estimated 3,300 acres north of U.S. 41 in the Big Cypress National Preserve, a National Park Service spokeswoman said Sunday night.

The blaze is scorching a mixture of grass, pine, and cypress habitat in a remote area north of Burns Lake Campground, according to park service spokeswoman Ardrianna F. McLane.

Visitors and commuters should expect to see smoke along U.S. 41 and Burns Lake Road and near the Monument Lake Campground. Skillet Strand Trail and adjacent parking lots are expected to be closed Monday, McLane said.

The Southwest Florida and Caribbean Fire and Aviation Management Program is fighting the fire, which began Saturday, from the air and on the ground.

“Firefighters are using both natural and human made barriers to contain the fire’s spread,” Big Cypress Superintendent Tamara Whittington said. “Fire is an essential component of the Big Cypress ecosystem. In the long term, the fire will benefit the ecosystem by renewing habitat and promoting ecological diversity.”

The park service is referring to it as the Parliament Fire.

Another blaze, called the Greenup Fire, began Thursday in the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation and the northeastern portion of the Big Cypress National Preserve. It spanned an estimated 162 acres and was 60 percent contained Sunday night, McLane said.

Writer:Chuck Myron