More than 1,850 acres of trees and grass in Southwest Miami-Dade have burned because of a stubborn brush fire being fueled by dry terrain and shifting wind, according to the Florida Division of Forestry.
The thick smoke Monday afternoon forced officials to shut down Southwest Eighth Street in both directions from 132nd Avenue to Krome (177th) Avenue. Officials also closed Southwest 157th Avenue, from Eighth Street to Bird Road. The closures on busy roads, for a second day in a row, have caused heavy traffic in the area.
“It is a complete mess down there,” said Scott Peterich of the Florida Division of Forestry. “If you don’t have to go that way, don’t.”
Peterich said that the wind was expected to shift again overnight, which could make smoke visible in northern Miami-Dade county and South Broward.
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Flames engulfed the forest area along Southwest 157th Avenue, stretching from Bird Road to Eighth Street Sunday afternoon and continued to spread into the evening. Plumes of black smoke could be seen from neighboring areas, including Doral, Sweetwater and West Kendall.
Though the fire subsided slightly through the night and into the morning, it picked up Monday afternoon. There were still some hotspots that lingered and reignited because of the shifting wind. The flames, once again, jumped Southwest Eighth Street and continued to spread, Peterich said.
“The conditions are terrible out there and it is making it very difficult to put out the fire,” he said, adding that a dry, large piece of land is a bad combination.
Although rain was forecast for Monday, Peterich said there wasn’t much rain over the fire, but there was a lot of wind.
“As it starts getting warmer outside and the wind picks up, it becomes easier for fire to spread,” Peterich said. “We’re going to be out there throughout the day controlling the flames before they get out of hand.”
Residents lined streets to get a glimpse of the flames.
“It was going up as high as the clouds,” Michael Bigelow told Miami Herald news partner CBS4.
By Monday afternoon, Miami-Dade Fire Lt. Arnold Piedrahita Jr. said there were about 30 fire units helping to keep flames from spreading to businesses and residential areas.
On Sunday, the only building in danger was The Pit BBQ restaurant on Southwest Eighth Street and 164th Avenue. Firefighters had trucks staged at the restaurant on Sunday to protect the structure. Piedrahita said the business was again shut down Monday night because of the smoke.
“There is a thick wall of black smoke,” he said.
Also on Monday, 27 children in a Lincoln Marti daycare center were evacuated to another location of the school because of the smoke.
Dry weather is the likely cause of the fire, which is still under investigation.
“This is a common occurrence in this area,” Piedrahita said. “It could’ve been lightning; it could’ve been manmade, as ATVs frequent the area. There is too much damage and it’s too widespread to determine a cause at this point.”
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is advising people with respiratory problems to stay indoors near the fire zone.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Fire Department said Monday afternoon that crews also fought a second grass fire near 112th Street and Southwest 127th Avenue. That fire was extinguished immediately.