Olive Fire forces roads, school to close

Published: Monday, January 9, 2012 at 3:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 9, 2012 at 3:59 p.m.

Early morning fog and smoke from the still-smoldering Levy Prairie Fire continue to create hazardous conditions between Melrose and Interlachen in Putnam County, forcing roads and an elementary school to close.

The fire, also called the Olive Fire, has been burning since around Thanksgiving and is feeding on muck -- a thick layer of soil with dead vegetation. Florida Forest Service district spokeswoman Ludie Bond said Monday that morning road closures will continue as long as heavy fog is predicted to mix with the smoke.

“That mixture can cause very hazardous road conditions,” she said, noting that multiple wrecks -- none fatalities -- have occurred in the area in the past two months.

The Forest Service is advising drivers to avoid the roads between Melrose and Interlachen -- including State Roads 21, 20 and 315, along with Baden Powell Road -- from 5 a.m. until 9 a.m. The roads will open, she said, once the fog lifts, usually around 9:30 a.m.

On Monday, Putnam County officials closed Ochwilla Elementary School because of smoke from the fire. The school will have adjusted hours Tuesday, opening at 12:15 p.m. and closing at 6:30 p.m., according to the Putnam County School District.

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