DORAL (CBS4) – An eleven mile stretch of Krome Avenue, from SW 8th Street to U.S. 27, remains closed due to a smoky brush fire which has now burned at least 7,400 acres in western Miami-Dade.
As of 10 p.m., officials say the fire is only 10 percent contained.
The extremely dry conditions and high winds are fueling the wildfire which is burning now for a third straight day. Firefighters say, so far, there are no signs of letting up. The fire has jumped Krome Avenue and is burning on both the east and west sides of the road.
“The major concern that we have is the winds from the north bringing the fire closer to SW 8th Street and with that, the fire getting down to the trail and affecting structures in this area,” said New Battalion Chief Abel Fernandez of the Miami-Dade Fire Department.
“It is now in the conservation area. We got fire on both sides of Krome Avenue ,so it will be shut down all day today while we conduct more fire operations along there to try to stop it,” said Deputy Chief David Utley of the Florida Forestry Division.
Meantime, drivers heading north on Krome are being forced to turn back.
“We have to go to 41 and I got to be at the airport in Tampa at 3:15,” said frustrated driver Scott Farley.
A quick ride down Krome Avenue made it clear why the road had been shut down.
“At this point, there are visibility issues and our concern is that the motoring public would have difficulty,” said Sgt. Thomas Pikul of FHP.
The 11-mile stretch of Krome Avenue will remain closed until the Florida Highway Patrol deems the conditions are safe again for drivers.
The 39-hundred acre fire itself is proving difficult to extinguish; firefighters are focusing their efforts on 900 acres west of Krome.
“We’ll be bringing in air support, dropping water on the fire and getting our units out there as best we can,” said Deputy Chief Utley. “Unfortunately, it’s such a long distance by the time they get out there, they run out of water and come back, sometimes the fire has already out flanked where they put it out.”
No homes in the area are threatened but there are a few campsites in the conservation area that firefighters say might be in the line of the first. They’ll do all they can to protect them but with conditions the way they are, firefighters say the best they can hope for is rain and no shift in the winds.
“If we do get a shift in the wind and that starts coming back out of the west and pushing fire to the east, Miami residents will feel it; but right now everything looks good for no pollution or smoke in the city at all,” said Utley.
But, “the grass fire creates its own wind and a major fire…a fire that has become a walking monster,” Battalion Chief Fernandez said.
Due to the significant amount of smoke created by the brush fire, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue reminds residents that unnecessary exposure to it should be avoided. Residents should also limit physical exertion if exposure to smoke cannot be avoided.
Individuals with cardiovascular or respiratory conditions and pregnant women are more vulnerable than others to the health effects of smoke exposure. Infants, young children and the elderly may also be more susceptible and should take particular care to avoid or limit exposure by staying indoors.
“Right now, the dryness is such a huge factor and unless there is a shift in this Caribbean pattern, we could have our hands full,” Chief Fernandez said.
Fernandez said his crews will not let the fire get to the Tamiami Trail.
The Division of Forestry is building a plow line to keep the fire from spreading south.