As a massive brush fire took aim on Mack’s Fish Camp on the fringe of the Everglades, owner Marshall Jones hopped in an airboat to create a fire break.
“I started last night and I finished this morning just as it got to my back door,” Jones said Friday. “I finished right as the fire approached the break, getting burned as I was doing it. Those hot embers were flying around; I have holes in my shirt.”
Fanned by gusty winds and dry weather, the fire that had been burning in West Broward since Wednesday picked up steam Friday as it moved toward Miami-Dade County and consumed an additional 3,500 acres in just 12 hours.
It torched nearly 1,000 acres Thursday evening. As winds picked up, the fire moved quickly, and by Friday evening it had consumed 5,500 acres.
Firefighters from multiple jurisdictions worked the blaze and hoped to contain it within a 10,000-acre section of levees. “We hope it will burn into the wetter areas and extinguish itself,” said Scott Peterich, a spokesman for the Florida Forest Service
By Friday evening, the fire was 60 percent contained, said Peterich.
On Thursday, the fire came dangerously close to Everglades Holiday Park, which is at the end of Griffin Road off U.S. 27, and the wildlife preserve and park was forced to close. But by Friday, the meandering fire had moved five or six miles away from the park, which offers airboat rides, boat rentals and gator shows. The park was open for business Friday.
Jones said the blaze came within 80 to 150 feet of his fish camp at U.S. 27 and Krome Avenue. “Now things are starting to get under control,” he said Friday afternoon, “but there are still small fires burning on the perimeter. I say this with a grain of salt, because this is the worst fire I have ever seen out here.
“It just moved much quicker than I thought it would,” said Jones. “At least my fire break was good enough to slow it down.”
“We were, with the help of multiple firefighting agencies, able to prevent the fire from doing any damage at Mack’s,” said Peterich. By Friday afternoon the fire had moved to the west of the camp. “It’s still all around it. I can see nine columns of smoke at the moment,” said Peterich.
There had been fears Thursday night that the fire might jump to the eastern side of U.S. 27. “What we did [Friday] and last night was burn from Holiday Park to Krome on the western slope of the levee. We took out all the fuel for the fire on the western side of the levee,” Peterich said.
At 10:52 a.m. Friday, the National Weather Service issued a dense smoke advisory all the way from the Miccosukee Reservation on the west to Coral Springs on the north to Homestead on the south. Visibility, it said, was a quarter mile or less in some areas.
Communities that also may experience smoky conditions include Sunrise, Davie, Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Miramar, Miami, Hialeah and Kendall, the weather service said.
With winds from the northwest moving at 20 to 25 knots, a small craft advisory also was in effect for Atlantic waters.