Crews Struggle to Contain Massive Fla. Brush Fire


Krome Avenue remains closed as firefighters continue to battle a brush fire that has consumed thousands of acres and is expected to grow.

David Utley, Deputy Chief of the Division of Forestry, told Local 10's Ben Kennedy that so far 7,400 acres have burned. Officials expect that number to grow to 10,000 acres by today.

On Wednesday morning, crews were working on stopping the fire from creeping up on the east side of Krome Ave.

Florida Highway Patrol closed Krome Avenue between Southwest Eighth Street in Miami -Dade County and U.S. 27 in Broward County on Monday afternoon. On Wednesday morning, the Tamiami Trail was also closed from Krome Avenue to the county line, but it has since been reopened.

If the fire keeps spreading, 100 homes south of the Tamiami Trail are at risk if the fire keeps heading in that direction, Utley said.

No evacuations have been planned.

Forestry firefighting tractors were brought in Monday to negotiate the tough terrain and try to contain the massive wildfire, which Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said had scorched 6,1000 acres by Tuesday evening.

On Monday, crews were lighting a back fire to meet up with the head fire to prevent it from jumping Krome Avenue and spreading west. Those efforts, however, proved unsuccessful.

On Monday night, the fire jumped Krome Avenue and is now burning on both east and west sides of the road as the flames push west. Officials said the two of their tractors got stuck in murky terrain and they are trying to get them out.

The only structures in the line of fire are a few hunting camps, according to officials. Forestry officials are more concerned about the area east of Krome Avenue, where there is a power plant and a correctional facility.

Because the fire is burning on both sides of Krome Avenue, Florida Highway Patrol officials do not expect to open the roadway anytime soon.

"With the winds, we just have to make sure that the roads are closed and visibility is a safe distance so that there's no accidents," said Thomas Pikul, of FHP.

"It's going to get very large before we can do anything with it," said David Utley, of the Florida Division of Forestry.

Firefighters continued to attack the flames from the ground and planned to call for aerial water drops throughout the day. Utley said that firefighters are doing their best, but they need help from the weather.

"We're hoping that we can get a break in the weather soon. That's what we really need is some rain right now, because it's just so dry out there," Utley said.

Forestry officials believe the fire was probably started by a spark from one of the ATVs that are popular in the area. ATV tracks are apparent in the extremely dry saw grass.

Meanwhile, Lake Okeechobee is four feet lower than it was this time last year, and South Florida water managers are working around the clock at their command center, monitoring 2,000 miles of canals to try and move the precious fluid.

"During a drought, it is probably more challenging than during a storm in that they are trying to put water into areas that desperately need water, but there is a shortage of water sources," said Randy Smith, of the South Florida Water Management District.

"You can use Lake Okeechobee as a backup water supply. When the lake gets low like this, it is absolutely difficult and almost impossible to move that water through the conservation areas and supply the lower east coast," said South Florida Water Management District Director Susan Sylvester.

Local 10 hurricane specialist Max Mayfield said this will probably be the latest start to the rainy season ever in South Florida. He said the rain is coming, but it will take quite some time to make up the rainfall deficit

"We really want to get that rain up north of Lake Okeechobee and have it flow into the lake and let the lake capture as much of it as it can here," Mayfield said.

With the bone-dry conditions, forestry workers spoke to people in the area, urging them to make sure their ATVs and dirt bikes had the proper equipment to avoid shooting off sparks.

"If you're going to be out here, especially doing any off-road vehicle riding, please make sure your equipment is in good shape and you have a spark arrester on it, and don't sit and idle because if you do that, there's a good chance that sparks could come out of there and start a fire," Peterich said.

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