A brush fire that started out as 300 acres in Big Cypress National Preserve late last month has grown to more than 10,000 acres.
The blaze, called the Cowbell Fire, grew by more than 2,000 acres from Monday to Tuesday and reached 10,435 acres on Tuesday afternoon. The fire was 13 percent contained on Monday. Containment dropped to 5 percent on Tuesday due to the increase in acreage.
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The fire — among the largest of dozens throughout Florida — is burning about one mile north of Interstate 75 between mile markers 56 and 64, two miles west of L-28 Canal Road and one mile west of Nobles Grade.
On Tuesday afternoon, dense smoke shrouded the interstate at mile marker 56 and reduced visibility for drivers. At fire jumped the interstate around 2 p.m., and small fires started in the grassy median.
Officials expect the fire to continue growing due to weather conditions, according to a release from the U.S. Forest Service. Afternoon easterly winds are expected to be 10 to 15 mph. Relative humidity was expected to reach 44 percent.
Crews are working to assess and improve containment lines. Aviation units are doing water drops to minimize fire growth, according to the release. Crews are also using minimal impact suppression methods to protect threatened and endangered species like the Florida panther, the Florida bonneted bat and the red-cockaded woodpecker.
Agencies involved in containing the blaze include the National Park Service, Big Cypress National Preserve, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Florida Forest Service, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Florida Highway Patrol and Collier County Office of Emergency Management.
Restrictions and closures in Big Cypress National Preserve:
Pink Jeep Campground
Bear Island Campground
Gator Head Campground
The road leading into the Sanctuary except to residents
All trails between state road 29, L-28 Canal and north of I-75, including that section of the Florida Trail
All public lands west of the L-28