WEST MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) – Thick smoke and low visibility from two large brush fires forced the shut down of roads in South Florida.
The roads were reopened late Sunday night.
About 670 acres were affected in west Miami, with winds exacerbating the problem, said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
“Really bad, you can actually see the flames from the roadway,” said Nicole Santisteban, who works nearby.
In Palm Beach County, Florida Highway Patrol officials closed I-95 in both directions for about five hours due to smoke from a brush fire.
The Department of Forestry is fighting the fire north of S.W. 8th Street, west of 137th Avenue, where it is the worst. MDFR is doing exposure protection south of 8th Street. It caused heavy smoke conditions and low visibility for drivers and businesses in the area, from 137th Avenue to 142nd Avenue.
“The largest component is on the northern side of Southwest 8th Street, which is about 520 (acres) and then the remainder is on the south side of Southwest 8th Street,” said Scott Peterich with Florida Forest Service.
“The smoke, it was pretty spectacular from the highway,” said witness Paul Bell. “You could certainly see the pillar of smoke and I’m not used to seeing it this far east.”
“It was a massive column of very dark, grey smoke and the sun was a huge, orange ball behind it,” added Kathy Noda.
S.W. 8th Street was shut down in both directions between 137th Avenue and Krome Avenue.
“We have this area blocked off for safety issues,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Felipe Lay told the media. “We don’t want people driving on this roadway, which is the main artery that is affected, because of the smoke, to be driving here and causing potential accidents on these roadways.”
The fire grew stronger as the day went on.
“I got here around 10:00 a.m. and I could see the smoke all around the place,” said David Fernandez, who works close by. “You could see it, smell it, it’s really bad, and as time moved, the fire started moving.”
Officials said heavy winds are adding to the problem.
“What we’re utilizing is our air rescue to do some reconnaissance, to get a nice overview of what has been affected,” said Lt. Lay. “And they’ve also been dropping water on spot areas that have been burning.”
They’re also urging residents to stay indoors.
“Windows closed, doors closed, especially if you have any type of respiratory issues,” said Lt. Lay.