A wildfire that ignited in the Big Cypress National Preserve Sunday doubled in size to more than 6,000 acres Tuesday and could shut down parts of Tamiami Trail, preserve officials said.
As firefighters continue to battle the fire north of the Trail from the ground and air, motorists should expect closures between Krome Avenue and State Road 29, said spokeswoman Ardrianna McClane.
6,020 acresThe size of the Parliament Fire in the Big Cypress National Preserve as of about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday
The blaze, called the Parliament Fire, started on about 60 acres in a remote area of the swamp that had been targeted for a prescribed fire this year. Fire is a natural part of the Everglades during the region’s spring wildfire season, ignited by frequent lightning strikes and used by rangers to manage habitat. (South Florida is also the lightning capital of the nation.)
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Fires help rid marshes of exotic plants, thin canopies in pine flatwoods and clear grasses to increase the flow of water before the rainy season. As long as the fire is contained, it’s considered a good thing, McClane said.
But this year, drought conditions have gripped nearly all of the state. Conditions have been too dry and windy so far to allow most prescribed burning, leaving wild areas with lots of vegetation and potential fuel boosted by last year’s wet El Niño weather pattern.
To protect the Tamiami Trail, firefighters will likely begin taking steps to remove vegetation close to the highway, either by chopping it down or burning it, McClane said.
In addition to road closures, Superintendent Tamara Whittington also closed several trails as well as the Burns Lake campground.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly described an area in Big Cypress as pine rocklands. They are pine flatwoods.
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