Fire spanning more than 6,000 acres raging in Collier County

Reporter: Michelle Alvarez Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Latest reports indicate the fire in Collier County was about 6,600 acres in size and only 10% contained.

If you’re driving south on Alligator Alley, you can’t miss the smoke.

WINK News was off the interstate at the Big Cypress National Preserve access area. You can see, feel, and smell the heavy, dense smoke filling the air.

Smoke seen from the road. CREDIT: WINK News

A wildfire at the Big Cypress Preserve is still raging. And it’s only been three days since the initial sparks kindled into flames stretching over 6,000 acres across.

“They’re working hot, long days. They are putting their efforts into meeting the goals of the IC. They are doing various tasks, whether it’s putting fire out with water, whether it’s putting in line to hold fire to later whether it’s using ignition operations to reduce the fuels, so that fire can’t come into that area,” Riki Hoopes, a fire communication specialist for South Florida Fire & Aviation, said.

Hoopes said firefighters would burn brush around the rest area off mile-marker 70.

Flames in Collier County. CREDIT: WINK News

Video shows crews working to prevent the main brush fire from reaching the road on Alligator Alley.

“This is in order to limit the potential smoke impacts to I-75. If we can get it burned out before the winds switch, we’re hoping the wind will carry it away from the highway,” Hoopes said.

That’s because the biggest risk for people is smoke on the roadways. Broward County resident, Rudi Ettrich, saw the smoke while passing by and couldn’t help but stop.

“If you remember from your scouting time, you know, a campfire. And the wind is blowing in the wrong direction. Right? That’s exactly how it feels like you’re standing in the smoke,” Ettrich said.

Hoopes said the full impact of the fire would depend in part on weather conditions and resources at the scene.

“Travelers should definitely use caution when they’re driving through the impacted areas. Be aware that there could be firefighters in the area, be aware that there’s going to be areas that may be smoky and may not be smoky,” Hoopes said.

Crews monitoring the fire. CREDIT: WINK News

Operations will continue through the weekend and into early next week.

WINK News also spoke with FHP who said their message to drivers this holiday weekend is to keep their eyes on the road. Meaning drivers ought to keep their phones down and slow down.

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