The Florida Forest Service is currently battling a major wildfire in Collier County in Southwest Florida and is asking motorists and residents to remain clear of the area.
Two wildfires, the 1,500-acre 22nd Ave SE Fire and the 2,500-acre 36th Ave SE Fire, broke out yesterday afternoon in the Golden Gate community in central Collier County, Florida, west of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. These fires were aided by high winds and extremely low humidity and have grown to 8,000 acres. Due to their close proximity, the wildfires are now being reported as one fire, the 36th Ave SE Fire. Additionally, crews are responding to two spot fires south of I-75 on the Picayune Strand State Forest.
The Florida Forest Service (FFS) is working in unified command with local fire and emergency responders, including the Greater Naples Fire Rescue, North Collier Fire Rescue, Marco Island Fire Rescue, Collier County Emergency Management, Collier County Sherriff’s Office and many others. Currently, the FFS has 16 tractor/plow units from Region 4 battling the blaze, along with 3 single engine air tankers, 1 fixed wing aircraft and 3 helicopters, including the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Air Rescue 1, which is assisting with water drops.
Additional FFS resources have been deployed, including the Green Incident Management Team, a dozer strike team from Northeast Florida, and 2 dozer strike teams which are en route from the Five Mile Swamp Fire in the Panhandle. The Florida Fire Chiefs Association is securing resources to provide additional structure protection.
Containment: As of 4:00 PM ET, the #36thAveSEFire is estimated at 8,000 acres and 10 percent contained. Currently, 13 structures have been reported damaged. Further structural assessments are ongoing.
Evacuations: Additional mandatory evacuations have been ordered to include the following areas south of I-75 along Beck Boulevard: Forest Glen, LeBuff Road, Benfield Road, Stable Way and Newman Drive. Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for the following areas: east of Collier landfill, horse farms and the mobile home park off Benfield Road. A map of evacuation zones for the #36thAveSEFire can be found here. Additional evacuations may be ordered based on conditions. To receive emergency alerts from Collier County Emergency Management, visit ALERT Collier to sign up. Two shelters are currently open to evacuees: Max Hasse Park, 3390 Golden Gate Boulevard West, Naples; and Golden Gate Community Center, 4701 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples.
Road Closures: The Florida Highway Patrol is re-opening I-75 (Alligator Alley) in both directions between mile markers 80 and 101. Heavy smoke continues to impact in the area, and motorists are urged to use caution.
“These are severely dangerous wildfires exhibiting extreme fire behavior, so everyone in the affected area should follow directions from state and local officials,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “All residents and travelers should heed evacuation orders and closely monitor the media for updates on the wildfire and the status of I-75 and local roads. We thank our brave local and wildland firefighters for working swiftly to control this wildfire.”
“Due to the elevated fire threat across the state, I urge all residents to be aware, exercise caution and avoid outdoor burning,” said Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “We are in the peak of our year-round fire activity, and current weather conditions will only add to the existing fire danger.”
Currently, there are 80 active wildfires burning nearly 16,000 acres in Florida. Last week, the Florida Forest Service battled the 2,000-acre #5MileSwamp Fire in Santa Rosa County and the #MussettBayouFire in Walton County, in which an arrest was announced on Tuesday.
Media with additional questions should contact Florida Forest Service local PIO Melinda Avni at 239-707-1654. Updates may also be found on Twitter at @FFS_Caloosahatchee, @FLForestService, and @FDACS.
The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres.