5 fires combine to scorch over 69K acres, threaten structures in Big Cypress
Five wildfires have combined in the Big Cypress National Preserve to form one massive brush fire that has scorched more than 69,000 acres so far.
The fire as of 4 p.m. Saturday was only five percent contained. It has grown by over 21,000 acres in two days.
“It’s a pretty good increase the last couple days due to the dry conditions and weather we’ve been having,” said Charlie Patterson, incident commander with the National Park Service.
The five previously separate wildfires were called the Buzzard, Curlew, Vulture, Flamingo and Caracara fires.
The massive blaze has caused dozens of fire crews from across the state to lend a hand. As of Saturday afternoon, 336 personnel are assisting, along with eight helicopters, three air tankers, three aircraft and 19 fire engines.
A smoke advisory was issued Friday night for motorists along Hwy. 41, State Route 29 and I-75 between Big Cypress National Preserve and Naples. Much of the southern county is covered with thick smoke.
We expect smokey conditions to remain all weekend as 48,000 acres r burning in Collier. If you plan on traveling over Alligator Alley, expect delays, fires are impacting portions. Forecasts call for significant rainfall beginning on Sunday. We urge everyone to please be safe. pic.twitter.com/qUIgfkAZ2k
— North Collier Fire (@NCFRPio) May 11, 2018
Lower temperatures and humidity are expected due to an incoming system. Winds will be from the east with afternoon breezes up to 18 mph. Although weekend rain is expected, it will not be enough to extinguish the fires, according to BCNP on Twitter.
“There’s a lot of cabins that are threatened by the fire. We’ve been protecting them as we get to them. I believe today we only lost seven out-buildings which are sheds and garages. Those are just areas we couldn’t get to in time,” Patterson said.
Officials say they’re hoping Saturday’s air quality is the worst SWFL sees this weekend. They’re expecting weekend rain to give them an upper hand on the fires, which are less than 10 percent contained.