Wind-Whipped Dade Brush Fires Burn 1,000-Plus Acres

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida forestry workers have gone home for the night after battling a brush fire all day Monday in Southwest Miami-Dade and gaining the upper hand.

Monday evening, Florida Forest Service spokesman Scott Peterich said the fire had burned 1065 acres and was 50% contained. On Sunday, he noted that they were burning over several square miles and the high, gusty winds were making it difficult to control.

Flames and smoke from the fires affected both the north and south sides of SW 8th Street from 137th Avenue to Krome Avenue. At one point Sunday, the smoke from the fire was so thick, Miami-Dade police were forced to close SW 8th Street from 137th Avenue to 177th Avenue.

“Big flames, a lot of smoke, a lot of people get scared, I had to close the store,” said restaurant manager Javier Brocie, who added he felt helpless watching the flames just across the street. “I was just looking and waiting to see what happens.”

The road remained closed overnight. By Monday morning, the smoke had cleared enough so it could be opened.

Since some areas along the road had burned themselves, forestry workers were able to concentrate their efforts on the more heavily wooded interior sections.

“Well, I got as close as I could with this vehicle. There still some fire activity on the west side of this area, right off of 137th, on the north side of the Tamiami trail,” said Gabriel Llamas with the forest service.

As crews fight the fire on the ground, a scout overhead directs them to trouble.

“A pilot is up in the air, and now that the winds are picking up and the humidity is dropping, he’s picking up hot spots that earlier were just smoking a little bit but now we have active flames,” said Peterich.

As of Monday evening, the Forest Service described the operation as being in “mopping up” mode, with a few remaining crews putting out hot spots that cropped up.

The Forest Service is investigating the cause of fires. Llamas said considering there was no lightning in the area, it was probably sparked by humans.

“This area is popular with four wheelers. OK, so you get ATV’s out here running full speed all the time. The exhaust systems get extremely hot. If they stop for a second to have a chat with their buddies, or whatever, they could ignite the grass. And with these winds, it doesn’t take a long time for it to spread.”

Peterich said crews were expected to continue mopping up the fire Tuesday morning.

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