Massive wildfire continues to burn in Everglades near I-75

WEST BROWARD, FLA. (WSVN) - A brush fire in the Florida Everglades north of Alligator Alley near Weston that officials said was caused by a lightning strike continues to burn almost two days after first igniting.

According to the Florida Forest Service, they received a call about the blaze from a senior ranger, just before 6:40 p.m., Sunday.

Forest officials said the fire continues to burn in a conservation area one mile north of Mile Marker 34 on Interstate 75, just west of Weston, Tuesday afternoon.

As of 10 p.m. Monday, forest officials said the fire was 23% contained, and the fire had burned an estimated 18,500 acres.

The fire has not caused any damage to nearby structures, forest officials said.

Monday night, officials had hoped rain would extinguish it, but it had not.

The Florida Forest Service was spotted flying above the wildfire Tuesday afternoon as they tried to get a better idea on whether it has grown.

7News caught up with a man who stopped along Alligator Alley to take a look at the fire.

“I saw the fire on the way, had to check it out,” he said. “Never had a chance to see this place, so this is great. It’s cool to see the fire, but it’s really sad that it’s burning like that cause that’s gonna hurt vegetation.”

Officials said they will have to shut down I-75 if the fire gets closer.

“It’s floating way above the road,” the man continued.

Officials have been concerned about shutting down the highway since Sunday night.

Florida Forest Service spokesperson Scott Peterich said, Sunday, “If we have a northern wind, it’s going to impact I-75. If we have a western wind, it will impact Highway 27. At night of course you can’t see the smoke until you’re in it, and that’s our biggest concern if we get either a northerly or westerly components.”

Crews had posted smoke advisories for drivers between Mile Markers 24 and 44 as a precaution.

Lisa Martin, who is visiting from Texas, thought the dark clouds were part of an incoming storm.

“At first I thought it was like a little rain storm getting ready to come in, but then I noticed all the ash coming through and flying on us when we were on our tour,” she said.

Wind has been blowing the smoke to the east, and individuals with respiratory conditions in the area are advised to stay indoors as much as possible.

Casey Davis, who is also visiting South Florida, said, “I was thinking all the little white flakes were part of the Everglades or something. We didn’t know about the environment, but they were like, ‘No, that’s the ash from the fires.'”

Airboat Captain Debra Deitle said she has seen her fair share of brush fires and knows they are part of the Everglades, but she remains worried for the wildlife.

“The burns are important for sure,” she said. “Alligators still have nests, or their young ones are still in vegetation, so you’ll lose a lot of wildlife, birds, everything.”

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