Fire in Big Cypress Preserve grows beyond 15,000 acres

IMMOKALEE, Fla. Smoke continues to fill the air from a brush fire in the Big Cypress National Preserve that expanded by roughly 50 percent Tuesday.

The blaze, known as the Cowbell Fire, is burning more than 15,850 acres and is 11 percent contained, the National Park Service said Tuesday night.

The rest area near mile marker 63 on Interstate 75 northbound is closed to due to smoke from the fire, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Light winds from the northeast are expected to carry more smoke onto Interstate 75, potentially affecting visibility throughout the night, especially between mile markers 55 and 75, according to the park service. Zero-visibility conditions are possible.

Firefighters continued strategic burnout operations Tuesday on the eastern, northeastern and southern portions of the fire to keep it within the boundaries of the preserve.

Another fire within the preserve may cause light smoke from another fire within the preserve to drift onto U.S. 41 Wednesday morning between Turner River Road and the Oasis Visitor Center.

The following preserve closures remain in place:

· Pink Jeep, Bear Island and Gator Head campgrounds
· The road leading into the preserve sanctuary except to residents
· All trails between State Road 29, L-28 Canal and north of Interstate 75, including that section of the Florida Trail
· All public lands west of the L-28 Canal, north of Alligator Alley east of State Road 29

Reporter:Olivia Mancino
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