BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE (CBS4) – South Floridians are breathing a lot easier Friday now that the smoke and haze from a huge Everglades brush fire is nearly contained.

Officials say a 40,000-acre fire burning in the Big Cypress National Preserve is about 95 percent contained.

By Thursday evening, officials say the cost of fighting the fire had risen to about $4.8 million. At one point, 350 federal firefighters and staff were fighting the fire.

Much of the 729,000-acre preserve is located south of Alligator Alley, between Naples and Fort Lauderdale. Officials believe the fire began with a lightning strike on April 26. It has caused smoky conditions this week across much of South Florida.

National Park Service spokesman Mike Johnson says up to seven helicopters have been dumping water on the fire. Firefighters also have attacked the fire from the ground, using swamp buggies and all-terrain vehicles.

He says the fire should be extinguished by May 18.

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