Fire burns 50 acres, temporarily shuts I-75

Another grass fire in the area earlier in the day burned about 15 acres.


Published: Friday, January 28, 2011 at 6:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 at 9:46 p.m.

A grass fire along Interstate 75 near Alachua burned about 50 acres, brought the highway to a close for about 15 minutes and slowed traffic into the night Friday.

Alachua County Fire Rescue District Chief Ed Kennedy said it appears the I-75 blaze and an earlier grass fire near Alachua were caused by people burning debris on a day that was too blustery for it.

"Visibility was about 10 feet at the height of the fire. I drove through it to see how bad it was, and I could not see much farther than the front of my vehicle," Kennedy said of the I-75 blaze. "We had flames right up to the roadway. There was so much smoke we had to shut the interstate down. We had one house threatened and a barn because (the fire was) in a horse field."

The fire was on the west side of I-75 and the wind was blowing from the west, sending smoke over the highway.

Firefighters earlier worked a grass fire near Alachua that burned about 15 acres.

Ludie Bond of the Florida Division of Forestry, which sent crews to both fires, said the blazes are easily ignited on grass and brush that is still dry despite the recent rains.

"Even though we got an inch or so of rain earlier in the week, it has been gusty winds, low humidity and sunny conditions since then. Fine fuels, like grasses, dry out the quickest so grass fires ignite very easily," Bond said.

The weather forecast for the weekend is for dry, sunny and warmer conditions. Kennedy said he fears more fires will ignite.

"People are burning, and they really shouldn't be doing burning because it was too windy," he said. "My big concern is that people are going to be out and — figuring we had a lot of rain — are going to burn stuff."

Several large brush fires have already burned thousands of acres in Alachua County this winter.

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