FHP closes section of U.S. 41 as 15,130-acre Sandy Fire closes in
OCHOPEE – The nearly two-week long Sandy Fire in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County burned closer to U.S. 41 Friday prompting the Florida Highway Patrol to issue a closure order.
Containment on the wildfire has increased as crews tied control lines into 41 on the east flank of the fire. The fire grew several thousand acres from Wednesday into Thursday and was at 15,130 acres and 30% contained.
Suppression burn-out operations on the Big Cypress National Preserve wildfire were being used to eliminate unburned fuel between the fire edge and the control line.
Riki Hoopes, a National Park Service wildfire information officer, said crews on the west flank of the fire continued to prepare structures in the area and were planning to use suppression burn out operations into Thursday evening.
The Florida Highway Patrol on Friday morning issued a travel advisory in Collier and Dade counties in effect closing 41 as of 9:30, from State Road 29 (Collier) and westbound from Krome Avenue (Dade) due to poor visibility from the fire and smoke.
The roadway was closed for more than seven hours, finally reopening shortly before 4:30 p.m. The FHP said troopers would monitor conditions and provide updates as needed and urged motorists to avoid area if possible and travel via Interstate 75 instead.
As the Sandy Fire continues to move south towards U.S. 41, smoke impacts along the roadways are expected. Intermittent closures remain a further possibility along U.S. 41 and travelers were advised to use caution and be aware of their surrounding environment.
Closures remain in effect west of 11 Mile Road, north of U.S. 41, east of Monument Trail, and south of Mud Lake, Little Deer, Oasis Trail and Lost Dog including the Florida Trail from Oasis Visitor Center to I75(MM63). This both ensures the safety of the public and allows firefighters to work without impediment.
Anatomy of a wildfire:
- Wildfire in Big Cypress prompts section of trails, roads closed
- Fire crews providing structure protection on Big Cypress blaze
- Evacuation plans in place as wildfire in Big Cypress NP spreads
- Sandy Fire in Big Cypress near Ochopee grows to 5,500 acres
- Uncontrolled Sandy Fire grows to 8,400 acres despite weeklong containment efforts
- Fire grows over 10,000 acres, containment increases
- Sandy Fire over 11,000 acres, some residents urged to leave
- How wildfires start in Florida
The extent of the wildfire has activated Phase Two of the Sandy Wildfire Evacuation Plan, with residents inside the evacuation zone prompted to be packed and ready to evacuate. Residents with preexisting health conditions will be encouraged to leave at this time.
If conditions warrant, Phase Three of the evacuation plan would have residents advised to leave as fire threat is imminent.
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