About 25 miles of Interstate 75 along the western end of Alligator Alley remained shut down Wednesday afternoon due to a massive Collier County brush fire that forced some Southwest Florida residents to spend the night in shelters.
Drivers from Broward County intending to head to the Naples area should find alternate routes, expect traffic delays and go slowly if road visibility is low.
The Florida Highway Patrol closed Alligator Alley westbound from State Road 29 to Golden Gate Parkway to protect drivers from the fire, which grew on Thursday to cover about 7,500 acres. Eastbound, the closure is slightly shorter, from State Road 29 to Collier Boulevard.
Lt. Gregory S. Bueno, an FHP spokesman, said the fire continues to pose a threat to drivers due to smoke from nearby flames. The agency expects the closure to extend into Thursday morning.
The Lee Williams wildfire is burning in the Picayune Strand State Forest, east of Collier Boulevard. It has been 30 percent contained.
The Florida Forest Service issued a mandatory evacuation Tuesday for several RV and apartment communities. Some residents were later allowed to return home, though the order remained in effect overnight for evacuees who were offered shelter at the Golden Gate Community Center.
On Tuesday, the fire knocked out power in some areas and burned down two homes, though no one was hurt. Firefighters from four counties — Collier, Sarasota, Lee and Charlotte — have been working with the forest service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to fight the fire.
This story has been updated.