More resources being deployed to help fight Collier fires

COLLIER BRUSH FIRE FIGHT

“Even with the windows closed and air conditioning on, we woke up at 2 a.m. and thought the fire was right there,” said resident Donna Lowrie.

Crews are fighting around the clock working to keep Collier County residents safe from several growing brush fires. But heavy smoke from those fires could be affecting your health.

“We have periodic clouds of smoke that get up in the morning and it smells all over the place,” said resident Gary Lindsay.

“We walk our dogs in the morning and you can’t even see,” added Lowrie.

Right now, of the fires burning in southern Collier County, the Greenway fire is the closest to neighborhoods. It scorched one home in the Picayune Strand this weekend. It has also just combined with another large fire—the 116th Ave SE fire—according to officials Monday.

“That one was difficult,” said Kingman Schuldt, the fire chief for Naples fire. “The fire was burning so fast we couldn’t keep up with the fire.”

MORE: Full fire coverage 

Firefighters are creating containment lines around the fire and to the East, thinking ahead to where it might travel.

Meanwhile, Greater Naples Fire is on constant standby to protect homes—making it an all hands on deck effort.

“The winds have been very erratic this year which is a challenge,” said Schuldt. “We’ve been chasing it through the forest out there.”

The Florida Forest Service announced Monday it is deploying additional aviation and heavy equipment resources to help fight three of the most aggressive fires in SWFL:

  • 116th Avenue Southeast Fire: 8,063 acres and 50 percent contained
  • Greenway Fire: 7,239 acres and 25 percent contained
  • West Boundary Fire: 2,800 acres and 50 percent contained

They are also encouraging residents to be cautious when it comes to heat sources and to remember these tips:

  • Develop and implement a family wildfire action plan
  • Call 911 or a local Florida Forest Service field unit office immediately in the event of a wildfire
  • Obey Florida’s outdoor burning laws
  • Never burn on windy days
  • Always keep a water source and suppression tools on hand when burning yard debris
  • Never leave an outdoor fire or hot grill unattended
  • Avoid parking vehicles on dry grass

COLLIER BRUSH FIRES AFFECT BUSINESSES

“We’ve had a lot of reservations that’s actually headed towards us, seen the smoke and called to cancel because they just don’t want to breathe it,” said Nina Young with Corey Billie’s Airboat Rides.

The business she works for his hurting right now. People are cancelling and getting their money back—all because of thick smoke blanketing skies in Collier County.

“You could see at certain spots, you could see like black smoke going up,” said tourist Jill Bierbaumb.

Ash is raining down on residents in the area as firefighters continue to fight the flames. Businesses—like that air boat business—are hoping and praying for a miracle as the flames inch closer and closer.

“It’s a big concern, especially with our thatched roofing and the tikis,” Young said. “Hot ash, it’s really scary.”

But for some tourists who did go out, it was a once in a lifetime experience.

“I was like, are we every gonna get away from it? I didn’t know how far it was going to go,” said tourist Mikayla Bailey.

The business says they’ve had to close more than three times in the past few weeks because of the fires. On Monday alone, more than 200 reservations had to be cancelled.

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