The Heat Is Online

Fires Consume 40,000 Acres in Drought-Stricken Everglades

South Florida fires still a health danger Crews expect to make some progress at massive Everglades fire The Associated Press, May. 20, 2008 MIAMI - South Florida's smoky skies cleared slightly Tuesday despite a growing wildfire in Everglades National Park, but officials still advised children, the elderly and people with breathing problems to stay indoors. A dense smoke advisory posted Monday afternoon was canceled Tuesday morning after wind conditions improved visibility for drivers in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. The smoke was still expected to cause moderate to unhealthy air quality conditions, according to Miami-Dade's Department of Environmental Resources Management. "Smoke is still around and will be around South Florida for the next few days, but as far as visibility it was canceled," said Andrew Tingler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. The fire was burning almost 40,000 acres  or more than 62 square miles  of Everglades National Park and was 30 percent contained. It had been at about 36,000 acres on Monday. Officials hope rising humidity will slow its spread. "Firefighters are in a much better position this morning because it only spread somewhat on Monday," said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Nina Barrow. About 2,000 people from the Everglades Correctional Institution and the Krome Detention Center were relocated Monday to other facilities around the state as the flames burned close to both facilities. The wildfire also was burning in the only known habitat for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Water flow was increased to the area, and state officials said the birds appeared to be safe. Firefighters were battling blazes from Brevard County on the Atlantic coast south to Miami-Dade County that have burned more than 120 square miles, said Gerry LaCavera, a wildfire spokesman with the state Division of Forestry. Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Wildfire smoke moving toward Miami, weather service says, May 19, 2008

Forecasters issued a dense smoke advisory for South Florida on Monday, saying smoke from the Everglades National Park wildfire could obscure visibility, especially if it combines with morning fog.

"A wildfire in the Everglades will produce a smoke plume that will move across parts of metro and inland Miami-Dade and Broward counties through early this morning, reducing visibility into the 2- to 4- mile range in some areas," the National Weather Service said.

Visibility in some parts of Broward County could be as low a quarter-mile, the weather service said.

Monday's weather could help or hamper firefighters as they scramble to douse the blaze raging across tens of thousands of acres of park land. While thunderstorms could provide moisture to aid in firefighting efforts, the weather service is also predicting windy conditions, with gusts up to 40 mph, which could spread the flames.

Almost 40,000 acres of the Everglades National Park were burning Sunday, fire officials said, the latest in a series of wildfires that have scorched parts of Florida in May. More than 200 fire personnel have assisted in attempts to contain it.

The fire, which threatened private property as well as an endangered bird, started Friday, the Southern Area InterAgency Management Blue Team said.

Fire crews were working Sunday to restrict it to the park while protecting the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, a federally protected species whose only habitat is in the Everglades.

Windy conditions Sunday pushed the fire into the corner of the park closest to Miami, fire officials said.

It is the latest wildfire to scorch Florida. More than 12,000 acres burned in the "Brevard Complex" fire near Palm Bay, on Florida's Atlantic Coast just south of Daytona Beach. That series of fires is expected to be fully contained on Tuesday, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

Last week, Florida authorities charged a suspect, Brian Crowder, with arson in connection with some of the fires in Palm Bay.

The Brevard County fires have destroyed about 22 homes and structures, and damaged another 160 homes. Damage totals more than $9 million, officials said.

A 19,000-acre fire near Clewiston, Florida, on the south end of Lake Okeechobee, was about 50 percent contained, the fire center said Sunday.

And a 1,300-acre fire north of Apalachicola in the Florida Panhandle was 80 percent contained by Sunday, it said.

Last week, U.S. Navy officials said a Navy jet sparked a 257-acre forest fire in the Ocala National Forest in the north-central part of the state. The jet had missed a target on a practice bombing run, the officials said.