USA – MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. – A brush fire in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge that grew to more than 4,700 acres over the weekend has been 77 percent contained, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
The blaze, which is off Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, was reported about 3:30 p.m. Friday, News 6 partner Florida Today reported Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Candice Stevenson said.
Fish and Wildlife fire officials spoke Friday about a containment plan for the blaze, which had only spread to about 500 acres.
Road closures for the fire have included Blackpoint Wildlife Drive and State Road 406 between state roads 402 and 3, Stevenson said.
Fire and forestry officials have been concerned about dry conditions making Brevard County prone to wildfires.
Neighboring counties last week had several new brush fires, but Brevard had none.
Friday’s fire came as Brevard rose five points on the Keetch-Byram drought index, meaning the threat of wildfires remains high and is increasing. The index, scored on a scale from zero to 800, estimates ground dryness and fluctuates based on the amount of rain each day, or lack thereof. The county’s average increased 570 because of the lack of rain, Florida Forest Service officials said.
Thunderstorms are in the forecast for Sunday night and Monday, which could bring rain, but also lightning strikes that would exacerbate the dryness problem if the bolts hit areas where it doesn’t precipitate.
Smoke from fires in Orange County could result in traffic shutdowns on thoroughfares between Brevard and Orange, officials advised.
Smoke from the Merritt Island fire was drifting toward Mims and Scottsmoor, which could cause traffic problems there, Stevenson said.
As of 11 a.m. Saturday, the fire was 4,738 acres and 42 percent contained, fire officials said.