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Mandatory Evacuations Ongoing As Fire In Collier County Continues To Grow

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Six-thousand acres are burning in Collier County, forcing the evacuations of homes and closing the western end of I-75.  County officials said Tuesday evening two homes were destroyed.

“All of a sudden we started seeing the black smoke coming up and the sheriff’s department came in and told us to get whatever we need and to get out of there,” said one man who had to evacuate. “They told us just to leave the motor homes, get in the vehicles and just get out of the park.  There was a parade of cars leaving the park.”

Twenty-five miles of the highway have been shut down while crews fight the blaze.

It has been burning for several days but it wasn’t until Tuesday that the Florida Forest Service said the fire could exhibit extreme behavior.

That is exactly what happened as the situation has deteriorated throughout the afternoon.

Efforts by the Florida Forest Service to keep the blaze contained have proven to be futile.  Officials say the blaze has proven a challenge for the dozens of fire crews working to put it out due to high winds, dry vegetation and low relative humidity.

Those forced to evacuate say they only had time to grab their bare necessities before having to seek shelter.

“We went back and were able to grab our dogs and had to go.  We couldn’t even….there was no time to take the RV out,” said one man, who wondered whether there was anything left of his recreational vehicle.

“We grabbed all the important tax information, our computers, our iPads, anything that we might need to obviously use in the future,” said another man forced to evacuate.

Smoke and fire have come across Beck Boulevard, just east of Collier Boulevard, near the Naples area.

That area is not far from I-75 and authorities are trying to create a stronghold to make sure the fire doesn’t spread close to the highway or housing communities along Beck Boulevard.

Three of those communities have been evacuated as the fire continues to burn and grow in size.

Residents impacted by the mandatory evacuations are now waiting and hoping their homes aren’t consumed by the fire.

Tuesday night, the Florida Highway Patrol said I-75 between mile marker 80 and mile marker 105 would remain closed until visibility improved.

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