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Firefighters Get Everglades Fire Under Control

Everglades National Park
A 1,300-acre fire burned along the park's eastern boundary, igniting invasive maleleuca trees pictured here.

A wildfire that burned across 1,300 acres of marshes near Everglades National Park, and threatened to ignite a muck fire in dried out wetlands, was mostly out Monday.

Firefighters extinguished about 70 percent of the fire that ignited April 19. The fire burned about 770 acres inside park boundaries and 515 acres along its border, said spokeswoman Alyson Gantt.

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Because the park remains unusually dry, firefighters will continue to work fire breaks along the perimeter, she said. Airplanes will also continue to patrol from above. 

As the fire burned last week, park officials worried that a dangerous muck fire would ignite dried-out peat. Low rainfall across all 16 counties in the South Florida Water Management District set a new record in March. Everglades marshes were among the driest areas, with groundwater levels across large swaths of the eastern Everglades nearly 2.5 feet below ground level.

Credit Everglades National Park
A map showing the wildfire area in Everglades National Park. The fire is mostly under control.

It takes about 100 years to form just three inches of peat, so fires can ravage dried-out marshes. Without peat, sawgrass can’t grow in deep water, which can then enlarge and speed up the marsh’s collapse.

To help stop the fires, water managers pumped water from the nearby C-31 canal to soak marshes.

Investigators are still looking into what caused the fire, Gantt said. No lightning strikes were recorded when it ignited, she said, so they suspect it was likely intentionally or accidentally set.