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Collier brush fire 65 percent contained

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NAPLES, Fla. A brush fire that has burned approximately 7,500 acres since Sunday was 65 percent contained as of Friday morning, Gov. Rick Scott said.

Scott gave the update in front of a large crowd at Club Naples RV Resort, one of the communities that was evacuated due to the brush fire.

“Here’s the positive, no one was injured that lives in (a) house or mobile home or RV,” he said. “And it’s just as important that we haven’t had a firefighter injured.”

The blaze, which started in the Picayune Strand State Forest, forced a number of mandatory evacuations and resulted in the closure of multiple roads, including Collier Boulevard and I-75 along Alligator Alley.

Firefighters contained multiple flare ups along I-75 and near the Club Naples and Panther Walk RV parks on Thursday, the Florida Fire Service said.

“Current wildfire activity is still moderate due to the amount of heat throughout the fire,” the fire service said in a statement. “Firefighters will continue to work on mopping up while paying special attention to areas located next to structures.”

At least four homes were destroyed by the fire, including one family who was the first to build on their street and another whose dream home went up in flames.

Approximately 1,000 structures were saved, the fire service said.

While the fire was “human caused,” according to Florida Forest Service spokesperson Samantha Quinn, it was not immediately known if it was intentional.

Scott, during his visit, also praised firefighters and asked residents to be vigilant in protecting their homes.

“If the weather holds up we’re gonna be in good shape the next few days, but we all have to remember is it’s a very dry year,” he said. “And so we all have to really think about how, especially if you’re close in an area like this where you’re around the woods, you’ve gotta really think about how to make sure your home doesn’t have a fire. You’ve gotta have some safe space.”

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who accompanied Scott, said the brush fire may be a sign of things to come.

“I’d like to say that this is a one-off, but unfortunately I believe that we are seeing a very busy beginning to what will be a very active wildfire season across the state, not just in Southwest Florida,” he said.

Little rain support

About 1.13 inches of rain fell across the area covered by the South Florida Water Management District in February, which was about an inch below average, the agency said.

The district, which includes Southwest Florida, adopted a resolution on Thursday urging residents and businesses to increase water conservation efforts.

“Those within the driest areas are encouraged to voluntarily cut back on irrigation, which can account for about half of residential water use,” the district said in a statement. “The main areas of concern for dry conditions include Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties, along with Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties.”

Most of last month’s rain came on Feb. 22, which was the heaviest rainfall since Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, the agency said.

Since the beginning of dry season, which runs from November to June, only 3.77 inches of rain fell within the district, which is 4.43 inches below average, officials said.

“Water managers are operating the system to save as much water as possible and will continue to make adjustments as needed,” the agency said.

Here’s breakdowns of how much rain has fallen in each area:

Tips when returning home

The fire service provided these tips for those returning to their homes:

  • Use caution and exercise good judgment when re-entering a burned wildland area. Hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning.
  • Avoid damaged or fallen power poles or lines, and downed wires. Immediately report electrical damage to authorities. Electric wires may shock people or cause further fires. If possible, remain on the scene to warn others of the hazard until repair crews arrive.
  • Be careful around burned trees and power poles. They may have lost stability due to fire damage.
  • Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety. Ash pits are holes full of hot ashes, created by burned trees and stumps. You can be seriously burned by falling into ash pits or landing in them with your hands or feet. Warn your family and neighbors to keep clear of the pits.
  • If a power line or pole should fall next to you, hop out of the area. You are less likely to be shocked if you are hopping.