SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Although strong wind gusts and dry conditions have made it difficult for firefighters to extinguish a forest fire that engulfed over 1,000 acres of undeveloped land in Southwest Miami-Dade, the wind gusts are pointing west, and have prevented structures and roads from being affected.
Monday afternoon, smoke and ash from the forest fire could still be seen by people driving along Southwest Eighth Street.
“The good thing is the winds are still pretty much in our favor, in the same direction as yesterday,” said Scott Peterich from the Florida Forest Service. “So, we’re working on the same game plan as last night.”
According to the Florida Forest Service, beginning at around 1 p.m., Sunday, the fire swept through Eighth Street from 137th Avenue, all the way to Krome Avenue. At around 2 p.m., the fire jumped across Krome Avenue and was threatening surrounding structures. The fire eventually made its way to Southwest 177th Street by Sunday evening.
The fire shut down nearby roads and businesses, but for now, neighboring structures are out of the danger zone. “There’s nothing west of it, except vegetation,” said Gabriel Llamas with the Florida Forest Service. “There’s no threats as far as structures.”
Peterich was the first from the Florida Forest Service to come out to assess the status of the fire around the location where it started, near Southwest Eighth Street and 137th Avenue.
Since most of the damage has already been done on the undeveloped land, which is mostly covered in grass and melaleuca trees, the focus is now containment, which stands at 75 percent, according to officials.
There is no clear date or time set on when the fire will be completely contained. “Mother Nature is pretty much the one that does all the calling here,” Llamas said.
Although the cause of the fire remains under investigation, officials believe it was man-made. They said these kinds of fires are a yearly problem. “Vegetation dries up, humidity drops and the vegetation is easily ignited,” Llamas said.
The area where the fire started is popular for four-wheelers, and hot exhaust systems could ignite the dry vegetation and quickly spark an out-of-control forest fire.
“You get ATV-ers out here, running full speed all the time, and the exhaust systems get extremely hot. So, if they stop for a second to chat with their buddies, or whatever, they could ignite the grass,” said Peterich. “With these winds, it doesn’t take long to spread and become a wildfire.”
“You have to eliminate certain factors,” Peterich continued. “No lightning. So, the only thing I could imagine was that it was four-wheelers. However, we don’t know if it was intentional or not.”
Crews have been up in the air looking for hotspots by plane, Monday. “We have our pilot up in the air and he’s trained to do surveillance and provide the commander and the firefighters on the ground a real great picture of the fire activity,” Peterich said.
Fire officials are counting on an increase in humidity to help decrease the intensity of the fire, Monday afternoon. As of 6 p.m. Monday, officials said the current phase is classified as “mopping up the fire” and that they’re on their way to have the situation 100 percent contained.
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