Officials are working to reopen a stretch of Interstate 75 where visibility has been affected by the smoke from a wildfire.
The fire ignited Sunday and as of Wednesday morning has grown to be 30 percent contained to 7,500 acres, according to the Florida Forest Service.
A portion of Interstate 75 from exit 80 to exit 101 was closed due to smoke and the proximity of hotspots to the roadways, but now officials are working to open up all lanes of traffic to motorists.
Visibility has improved along the problematic areas, but Florida Highway Patrol officials will remain on-site through the night to continually assess visibility conditions, a Wednesday evening news release said. But if visibility worsens, the road could remain closed.
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Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott spoke with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Terry Rhodes, Department of Transportation Interim Secretary Rachel Cone, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Chief of Staff Jennifer Fitzwater and Collier County Fire Rescue personnel about the Collier County blaze.
“As our state begins to experience hotter summer temperatures and dry conditions, it is critical that all Floridians remain vigilant and do their part to prevent wildfires,” Scott said in a press release.
A dense-smoke advisory was put in place for Collier County through 7 a.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Visibility is reduced to one quarter of a mile or less, and drivers are reminded to slow down, use their headlights and leave extra distance ahead of them.
“Our firefighters with the Florida Forest Service worked through the evening to continue the efforts to contain and suppress the fire in Collier County,” Putnam said in a press release, adding that more than 70 active wildfires were taking place around Florida on Wednesday. “We’ll continue to work with our partnering agencies, and may we keep these first responders in our prayers.”
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers advice on how to prevent wildfires where residential areas coincide with forests, which includes construction and landscaping tips as well as how to reduce vegetation that could become fuel for fire. Putnam added that the FLBurnTools app shows information on drought and wildfire danger.
According to Collier County, the Florida Forest Service ordered mandatory evacuations for Naples Club RV Resort, Panther’s Walk RV Resort, Forest Glen Country Club, Aventine at Naples apartments and horse stables on Newman Drive. By late Tuesday, residents of Forest Glen and Aventine at Naples were allowed to return home.
According to Scott, four homes have been destroyed because of the fire, but there have been no reported injuries or deaths.
The Golden Gate Community Center was opened for those evacuated and will be helped by the Red Cross and the county’s parks and recreation division staff.
The department has set up an emergency hotline phone bank. Those with questions or concerns can call 239-252-8444.
If drivers need roadside assistance, FHP suggested dialing *347.
FHP said that eastbound I-75 traffic should take exit 105 to U.S 41; turn left onto eastbound U.S. 41; take U.S. 41 to northbound State Road 29; and then take northbound State Road 29 to I-75.
Westbound traffic should take exit 80 either north or south. To go to Naples, take State Road 29 to U.S. 41, then turn right on U.S. 41.
Sara Nealeigh contributed to this report.