The Collier County wildfire doubled in size within hours Thursday, amassing to 8,000 acres with only 10% containment.
“These are extremely dangerous and fast-moving wildfires that can change rapidly, so everyone in the affected area should follow directions from state and local officials,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried
The growth comes after two large wildfires in Collier County merged overnight, creating one 4,000 acre fire. Now recognized as one whole blaze, authorities have dubbed the fire the 36th Ave. SE Fire.
5 PM: #36thAveSEFire is 8,000 acres, 10% contained.@FLForestService deployed 16 tractor/plows, 3 air tankers, 3 helicopters (w/@CollierSheriff Air Rescue), 1 fixed wing aircraft.@CollierEM mandatory evacuations ordered south of I-75/Beck Boulevard.
— FL Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services (@FDACS) May 14, 2020
In response, the Florida Forest Service has deployed 16 plows, three single-engine air tankers, two helicopters, and one fixed-wing aircraft to the area to supplement local fire crews.
Additionally, the Florida Forest Service has deployed its Green Incident Management Team, a dozer strike team from Northwest Florida, and two dozer strike teams that are traveling from the Five Mile Swamp Fire in the Panhandle.
The blaze also has the attention of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who traveled to the area Thursday afternoon to be briefed by local emergency management officials.
“I urge residents to remain vigilant and heed local evacuation orders,” DeSantis said.
Residents and motorists are being asked to remain clear of the area as mandatory evacuation orders remain in place for areas east of the Collier landfill, Forest Glen, LeBuff Road, Benfield Road, Stable Way and Newman Drive.
Those at risk or with breathing problems are encouraged to evacuate to one of two sites available in Naples.
The Florida Highway Patrol has also shut down overnight a portion Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) between mile markers 80 and 101. The interstate reopened Thursday afternoon.
“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,” Fried said. “We thank our brave local and wildland firefighters for working swiftly to control this wildfire.”
There are currently 80 active wildfires totaling nearly 16,000 acres across the state. Last week, the Florida Forest Service and local fire crews from across the state battled two fires including the 2,000 acres Five Mile Swamp Fire in Santa Rosa County.
An arrest was made Tuesday in connection to the Mussett Bayou wildfire that destroyed 59 homes and 343 acres of wild lands in Walton County.
Officials are urging residents to be more mindful when burning outdoors.
“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.”