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Troopers close section of U.S. 41 as 15-plus acre Sandy Fire closes in

 A section of the Sandy Wildfire in Big Cypress National Preserve
Matt Counts
Special to WGCU
A section of the Sandy Wildfire in Big Cypress National Preserve

The nearly two-week long Sandy Fire in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County burned closer to U.S. 41 Friday prompting the Florida Highway Patrol to issue a closure order.

Containment on the wildfire has increased as crews tied control lines into 41 on the east flank of the fire. The fire grew several thousand acres from Wednesday into Thursday and was at 15,130 acres and 30% contained.

Suppression burn-out operations on the Big Cypress National Preserve wildfire were being used to eliminate unburned fuel between the fire edge and the control line.

Riki Hoopes, a National Park Service wildfire information officer, said crews on the west flank of the fire continued to prepare structures in the area and were planning to use suppression burn out operations into Thursday evening.

The Florida Highway Patrol on Friday morning issued a travel advisory in Collier and Dade counties in effect closing 41 as of 9:30, from State Road 29 (Collier) and westbound from Krome Avenue (Dade) due to poor visibility from the fire and smoke.

Anticipated closure time was to be for 3 to 5 hours. The FHP said troopers would monitor conditions and provide updates as needed and urged motorists to avoid area if possible and gravel via Interstate 75 instead.
As the Sandy Fire continues to move south towards U.S. 41, smoke impacts along the roadways are expected. Intermittent closures remain a further possibility along U.S. 41 and travelers were advised to use caution and be aware of their surrounding environment.

Closures remain in effect west of 11 Mile Road, north of U.S. 41, east of Monument Trail, and south of Mud Lake, Little Deer, Oasis Trail and Lost Dog including the Florida Trail from Oasis Visitor Center to I75(MM63). This both ensures the safety of the public and allows firefighters to work without impediment.

The extent of the wildfire has activated Phase Two of the Sandy Wildfire Evacuation Plan, with residents inside the evacuation zone prompted to be packed and ready to evacuate.  Residents with preexisting health conditions will be encouraged to leave at this time.

If conditions warrant, Phase Three of the evacuation plan would have residents advised to leave as fire threat is imminent.

Copyright 2023 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Michael Braun
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