Fires close U.S. 41, keep students inside

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Smoke from a mulch fire in east Lee County led fire crews to advise school officials to keep students inside Tuesday at Manatee Elementary School and Oak Hammock Middle School.

OCHOPEE, Fla. A 58-mile stretch of U.S. 41 between Collier and Miami-Dade counties was shut down Tuesday afternoon because of a wildfire in the Big Cypress Preserve, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The highway was closed between State Road 29 in Collier and Krome Avenue in Miami-Dade. The closure lasted several hours, according to the FHP.

Local residents, with proper identification showing residency, were allowed to travel through the roadblock, the FHP said.

The closure was necessary for firefighters to establish a burnout along U.S. 41 and to assist with maneuvering fire equipment, according to the FHP.

In Lee County, fire crews told officials at Manatee Elementary School and Oak Hammock Middle School to keep students inside as they continue to battle a nearby mulch fire that broke out Monday morning.

The approximately 2-acre mulch fire is the same one that’s spread smoke throughout Lee County. It’s 100 percent contained, but not fully extinguished, and will likely burn for several more days, Bayshore Fire Protection and Rescue Service District Chief Larry Nisbet said.

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