Recent rain just in time for Orange Lake Fire

Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 11:37 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 10:26 p.m.

Monday's slow-moving rain was perfectly timed, according to firefighters battling the Orange Lake fire in eastern Alachua County.


National Weather Service forecast for Gainesville

Tonight: Patchy fog after 1 a.m. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 50. West wind around 7 mph.

Wednesday: Patchy fog before 8am. Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 70. West wind between 5 and 7 mph.

Wednesday Night: Patchy fog after 1am. Otherwise, partly cloudy, with a low around 44. Light north wind.

Thursday: A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 73. Calm wind becoming south between 4 and 7 mph.

Thursday Night: A slight chance of showers, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1 a.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 56. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Friday: A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 64. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

Friday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 36.

Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 59.

Saturday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 32.

Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 63.

Sunday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 38.

Monday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 68.

According to the National Weather Service, the storm system slowly dumped 0.64 of an inch of rain across much of Alachua County — enough to help douse the wildfire that broke out around 1 p.m. Sunday on the south side of County Road 325.

The wildfire was about a mile west of Island Grove and was doubling in size every two hours, said Ludie Bond, spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Forestry.

“This was very similar to the Burnt Island fire [of early January] because it was growing so rapidly and because it was active at night, which is unusual for wildfires,” Bond said. “There was a potential for it to become a real danger to the homes in that area.”

The fire had grown to about 150 acres by the time rain began to fall early Monday, firefighters said, and had been aggressively moving through a marsh.

While Monday's rain did not completely douse the Orange Lake fire, it slowed progress significantly and also helped crews extinguish or slow 11 other wildfires reported over the weekend in the area.

“It helps anytime we receive any amount of precipitation because we have been so dry for so long,” Bond said. “Even this amount of rain helps us close out some of the fire incidents we are currently working or monitoring.”

Bond said that, even though there may not have been enough rain to put out a fire, the precipitation cooled the area, giving crews more opportunities to develop containment lines.

Meteorologists said rain will return to the forecast later this week.

The chance of rain is 20 to 30 percent for most of the region on Thursday night and 40 to 50 percent on Friday night, according to the National Weather Service. Look for daytime highs in the 70s until Friday, when cooler weather will reach the region and the high temperatures will be in the 60s.

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