Monday, May 19, 2008

Florida Burning

This is something serious - and perhaps a misadventure if you are a piece of vegetation (i'm sorry). It's unusual to find ash on your car in downtown Miami. Here's the latest story below (cough, cough):

Everglades Brush Fire Puts S. Fla. Under Air Quality Alert
Everglades Wildfire Prompts Prison Evacuations
POSTED: 11:44 am EDT May 19, 2008
UPDATED: 10:16 pm EDT May 19, 2008

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- South Florida residents were warned to stay indoors and an air quality alert was put into effect as smoke from a massive wildfire in Everglades National Park billowed their way.
The fire has been burning in a northeast corner section of the Everglades known as Mustang Corner since Friday.

No structures were in danger, though officials said the fire was burning in the only known habitat for the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow.
The 36,000-acre blaze was about 30 percent contained. The smoke was blowing to the northeast, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Nina Barrow. Smoke and fog advisories were issued for Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Glades counties.
Moderate to "unhealthy" air quality conditions were expected throughout the week, according to the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resource Management.
"The wind is coming from the southwest and pushing the fire to the northeast," Barrow said. "We have seven helicopters and two single-engine air tankers that provide water drops on this northeast corner of the fire. They've been working all day today and yesterday."
Almost 200 firefighters, some from out-of-state, gathered at a command post at Homestead General Aviation Airport on Monday morning to make a strategy on how to combat the flames. Helicopters, some large enough to drench a fire with 750 gallons of water in one drop, flew into the Everglades.
Seven helicopters and two tankers were performing water drops Monday to stop the fire from reaching Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail, Barrow said.
"Seventy percent of the fire does not have a good fire line around it to prevent it from spreading further," she said.
Investigators said they believed a person might have started the fire.
"They're out in the woods, they're using mechanized equipment, they're burning trash in their back yards, and every time you do that now, you take the chance of starting a fire," said Deputy Chief David Utley of the Florida Division of Forestry.
Low humidity, a lack of rain and brittle brush has contributed to the large blaze in an area that was once marshy and full of swamplands.
"Then when we put so much population on the east coast and we're draining the water out from underneath the Everglades to use as drinking water, we're seeing the levels out here in the Glades go down," Utley said.
Monday brought rain to the area, which is exactly what firefighters said they need to cut through the smoke, moisten the fire's fuel and put out the flames. Still, only a small amount of rain fell on the flames.
NBC6 Chief Meteorologist Paul Deanno said Monday night and Tuesday morning winds are expected to be lighter, which is good to fight the fire.
However, with the low winds, a dense smoke advisory will remain in effect for the western communities of Broward and Miami-Dade counties from 10 p.m. Monday to 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The low-settling smoke will cause visibility problems on South Florida roads, fire officials said.
Everglades Wildfire Prompts Evacuation Of Prison
Everglades Correctional Institution and the Krome Detention Center were being evacuated as a precaution due to the nearby fires. The fire is approximately ten miles from Everglades, which evacuated 1,753 inmates. Krome is federal immigration lockup that holds about 600 inmates. The inmates were being taken to other facilities.
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"The Homestead Command Center notified the Department of Corrections early this afternoon that the Mustang Corner wildfire could not be contained and was a threat to the Everglades prison," said Joellyn Rackless of the State Department of Corrections.
With heavily armed security nearby, the more than 2,000 prisoners were taken across the state in shackles for their own safety.
"The inmates will be moved to institutions throughout the state where there are vacancies," Rackless said.
The inmates will be in transit and will not be able to contact anyone for at least 48 hours.
Click here for more information on the inmate evacuations.
Central Fla. Wildfires 75 Percent Contained
Firefighters have been battling 88 active fires that have burned 44,000 acres from Brevard County, on the state's Atlantic coast, south to Miami-Dade County.
Six fires that had burned about 12,500 acres and destroyed a number of homes in Brevard County were about 75 percent contained, said Florida Division of Forestry spokesman Todd Schroeder. The causes of the blazes remained under investigation.
Officials also were concerned that rain in the forecast Monday could worsen conditions on Lake Okeechobee after five wildfires burned over 25,000 acres in the dry lake bed.
Firefighters have not been trying to contain the fires because no homes were threatened, said U.S. Division of Forestry spokeswoman Melissa Yunas said.
But any rain could bring lightning and high winds that could help the blazes spread across the exposed lake bottom.
"The vegetation is already dry enough," Yunas said.

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