While the smell of smoke may be lingering, none of the handful of brush fires burning in Southwest Florida are currently threatening any homes.
From the massive fire at Big Cypress National Preserve to a fire of just over 25 acres near Golden Gate Estates, fire crews from Collier County and beyond have worked to keep the fires contained.
At Big Cypress, the “Jarhead” fire is still at 38,130 acres and remains 95 percent contained, said Mike Johnson, a fire information officer working on the blaze. After another day of productive mop-up, 127 federal firefighters were released from the fire Saturday and headed back to Arizona and New Mexico, he said.
Johnson estimates the blaze will be 100 percent contained on Wednesday, and, if they feel secure enough, officials will remove many of the remaining resources. Even at 100 percent containment, they won’t be walking away from it completely, Johnson said.
“The local preserve and (local fire officials) will take a look at it,” he said. “When they’re up in the air, they’ll swing by and check on it. We’ll be monitoring it throughout the season.”
In the Picayune Strand, firefighters are working to contain the 3,324-acre fire, which started as a 20-acre blaze on Thursday near 68th Avenue Southeast and Patterson Boulevard, Florida Division of Forestry spokesman Victor Hill said.
Currently 30 percent contained, Hill said the reason the fire had grown so immensely is because crews burned an additional 500 acres in a burn-out operation. While the fire is several miles away from Interstate 75, Hill said smoke shouldn’t be an issue out on Alligator Alley.
“Most of these fires are the result of lightning strikes,” Hill said. “We’ve worked over a dozen the last few days ... there’s been a lot of lightning strikes without a lot of rain.”
In addition to the Collier County fires, Lee County experienced heavy smoke at times due to two fires near Southwest Florida International Airport. A 50-acre fire was reported off Alico Road on Friday and a 30-acre fire burned south of the airport Saturday. Both fires are 100 percent contained, with the 30-acre fire contained within 15 minutes, Hill said.
With Southwest Florida still very dry, residents are asked to be aware of preventable fires, as lightning only accounts for 25 to 30 percent of brush fires, he said.
“Until we get sustained rain, we’re still going to have drought like conditions persisting the next few weeks,” Hill said.