Smoke from brush fires covering Central Florida

Smoke from brush fires covering Central Florida

01 June 2011

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USA — Multiple fires are producing smoke across Central Florida that residents can see and smell.

Firefighters continue to battle a 150-acre brush fire near the Daytona Park Estates subdivision that has been burning since last Wednesday.

A controlled burn was planned for Monday night, but was postponed because fire crews had to go battle another fire in Flagler County.

There are now more than 44 fires burning in Central Florida. In Volusia County alone, 650 acres are burning.

“It’s concerning, but it’s the nature of the beast when you live out here,” said Susan Burts, a resident who was evacuated.

Burts said she knows her neighborhood isn’t out of danger just yet.

“You take it with a grain of salt, and you do what you got to do and leave if you have to leave,” Burts said.

For more than two hours, about a dozen homes were evacuated. Fire officials said the flames were burning just inches away from homes.

Residents have mixed levels of concern.

“I’m not,” said Dave Belcher. “I know my wife is stressed out about the whole thing, but I have all the faith in the county and the guys that do their jobs.”

Meanwhile, fire crews are battling dozens of fires across the area. Little rain mixed with wind and dead debris have created an explosive equation, creating a strain on manpower.

“Had to order additional resources,” said Cliff Frazier from the Division of Forestry.

Frazier said from January to May of 2010, there were 75 brush fires. This year that number is well over 100.

For many people who have lived through fires before, they know it could be a while before the flames die down.

“This isn’t over,” Belcher said.

The wind was not so much a concern, but there are a number of gas lines along these roads. Fire officials said they have to be very careful when digging and moving around the heavy equipment so as not to puncture one of those lines.

The controlled ban has now been planned for Tuesday. The big concern is the dead brush that’s still out there, which is fuel for the fire.

Currently, the fire is 50 percent contained.

Smoke in the Air

Lightning is also to blame for three fires along the Beachline (State Road 528) in Orange County. Smoke from those fires is drifting across parts of Orange County.

All three fires, one east of ICP Boulevard, one east of the Greeneway, and one near Innovation Way are all contained, and no homes are in danger.

News 13’s Digital Doppler X3 radar also picked up smoke plumes Sunday from eastern Osceola County. An spokesperson from the county said the fire started earlier this week in the Kenansville area and is now up to 70 acres in size.

In Brevard County, Digital Doppler X3 picked up a smoke plume at the Kennedy Space Center. A KSC spokesperson said the fire is between the launch pads, but is contained and is not a threat. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Management is handling it, and will let it burn out.

Crews also had to fight another brush fire Friday night near the Andover Lakes subdivision off Curry Ford Road.

“It gets to be a little annoying. It was starting to make its way into the home last night. Before we went to bed, you could smell it inside,” said Barry Griffiths.

Griffiths’ girlfriend works at the Orlando International Airport, where outdoor employees took precautions.

“The smoke was pretty heavy this morning. They were wearing masks to help breathe and not breathe in the smoke,” Griffiths said.

Smoke from our brush fires is even wafting its way into the Tampa Bay area, where people woke up to the smell of smoke Sunday morning.

Statewide, there have been more than 2,600 wildfires this year. That’s nearly twice as many as last year.

Wildfire danger remains high

Although we have seen some rain in the last few days, there isn’t much rain in the forecast for the week ahead, meaning the fire danger will stay high.

Fire officials said the low humidity and windy conditions, combined with the lack of rain, means fire danger will remain high.

None are threatening any homes, but because most are burning deep in the woods, they’re tough to get to. Crews are having a hard time getting them contained.

Burn bans are in place in several counties throughout Florida, including Flagler, Marion, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia.

Officials urge people to follow these tips when handling fire over the Memorial Day weekend:

Never leave fires unattended
Dispose of charcoal briquettes properly
Use dedicated campfire rings
Clear vegetation to bare soil within 10 feet of your campfire
Make sure fire is dead before leaving
Be careful when operating lawn mowers, trackers and ATVs, as sparks can ignite wildfires
Avoid parking cars in tall grass that can be ignited by a hot catalytic converter

If you are healthy, you usually are not at a major risk from smoke.

People at higher risk are children, the elderly and those with a preexisting medical condition.

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