Wildfires burning about 6,000 acres in Collier County forced the shutdown Tuesday of a 25-mile section of the Alligator Alley portion of Interstate 75 — and the closure may last overnight.
A wildfire that ignited Sunday in eastern Collier County is 30 percent contained to the 6,000 acres currently burning, according to Florida Forest Service spokeswoman Melissa Yunas.
At 2:01 p.m., the wildfire and thick smoke forced the closure of Alligator Alley from the exit of State Road 29 at mile marker 80 to mile marker 105 in both directions because of the diminished visibility, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Lt. Gregory Bueno, spokesperson for FHP, tweeted Tuesday evening FHP anticipates the 25-mile stretch of I-75 will remain closed through the night.
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Mandatory evacuations have also been issued for the Naples Club RV park, Panther Walk RV park, Forest Glen and horse stables in and along Neuman Road. A reception center is set up at Golden Gate Community Center, 4701 Golden Gate Parkway, for those who need shelter, according to the Collier County Emergency Management Department. The department has set up an emergency hotline phone bank. Those with questions or concerns can call 239-252-8444.
A dense smoke advisory has been issued for Collier County through 7 a.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.
The cause of the fire is currently under investigation, Yunas said, as 120 fire personnel from city, county and state agencies worked to contain the blaze Tuesday.
Favorable weather conditions, however, have allowed for the fire to continue to grow.
Winds are coming out of the north and northeast but that is expected to change, Yunas said.
The wildfire has also caused other road closures in Collier County. Collier Boulevard is closed from Rattlesnake Hammock Road to Davis Boulevard and Naples Lakes Road is closed.
In Manatee County, there are currently no wildfires reported, but conditions are making Florida Forest Service officials nervous statewide, according to spokesman Patrick Mahoney.
On Monday there was one brush fire reported, but firefighters were able to extinguish it before the forest service arrived.
“Now is really the time to prepare for wildfires,” Mahoney said. “Make sure your roof and gutters are cleaned out, and make sure you have defensible space around your home.”
“Simple things makes the difference,” he added.