Thick clouds of smoke from a five-day-old fire in western Palm Beach County engulfed part of Sunrise and other areas in Broward County Monday evening after a wind shift drove the smoke south.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers first noticed the fire and the smoke while driving near U.S. 27 around 5 p.m., said Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Roger J. Reyes.
FHP considered closing U.S. 27, but decided winds would keep the smoke off the road, said Reyes.
Instead, strong winds from the west pushed the smoke south, across the Sawgrass Expressway.
''It's been hazy before, but this is smoky,'' said Jenny Lerner, of Pembroke Pines, who works in the Sunrise area, as she pumped gas near the Sawgrass Mills mall Monday night.
Paul Pierre, of Pembroke Pines, who also works in the area, said he noticed the smoke around 5:30 p.m. while running errands.
''When you're driving you can barely see,'' said Pierre. ``It looked like a big fog, but very dark.''
Officials from the Sunrise Fire Department said their switchboards were swamped with calls with complaints about the thick smoke and strong fire stench.
''When the wind shifted, we got blanketed in it real good,'' said department spokesman Norm Rynning.
The fire covers an area of about 3,000 acres near the border of Palm Beach and Broward counties, said Bill Parker, an officer for the Florida Division of Forestry. Officials have been observing and containing the fire since lightning struck about five days ago, igniting a brush fire, said Parker.
The smoke began clearing Monday night, thanks to another wind shift that should keep the smoke away, at least for today, said National Weather Service forecaster Joel Rothfuss.
``The wind shifted around 9 p.m. off the ocean, pushing strong winds west. That should get the smoke back out to the Everglades.''
Also, in central Palm Beach County on Monday, a wind-whipped wildfire charred 75 acres of a nature preserve and came within spitting distance of dozens of homes in Royal Palm Beach before being beaten back by firefighters, a water-dropping helicopter and homeowners with garden hoses.
The Palm Beach Post contributed to this report.