Wildfire burning 400 acres inside the levee of Lake Okeechobee
By Rachel Leigh| September 21, 2011 at 4:44 PM EST - Updated June 25 at 11:31 AM
GLADES COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - A wildfire is burning 400 acres inside the levee of Lake Okeechobee.
First noticed by the Florida Forest Service late Tuesday night as a 10-acre wildfire, the development of the flames have firefighters concerned. By early Wednesday morning, it had grown to a 120-acre fire and by 11 a.m. it had spread to 400 acres.
"The potential growth of this wildfire is up to 12,000 acres. The wildfires are burning slowly and crews are having difficulties accessing the [area]," said Melissa Yunas, a Wildfire Mitigation Specialist with the Florida Forest Service.
When first alerted to the fire, state and county firefighters began patrolling the lake to make sure the flames were contained within the lake bed.
But it isn't just the fire that officials concerned: it's also the smoke.
"The dry marsh and grass islands within the lake are burning and causing a smoke nuisance," Yunas said in a media release.
Crews are hoping smoke does not impact commuters nearby on Highway 78. While the highway hasn't been shut down, Florida Highway Patrol has posted smoke advisory signs.
"Smoke may create conditions where visibility on roadways is seriously impaired especially in the evening and early morning," Yunas said. "Under these conditions, drivers need to turn on low-beam headlights, slow down and be prepared to leave the roadway if conditions continue to deteriorate."
Yumas said historically, when conditions are at their driest, it is normal for the lake to catch on fire. However, by late September, Yuma said the lake should have had enough rain in order to eliminate the possibility of a fire.