Large Wildfire Burning In Lake Okeechobee - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Large Wildfire Burning In Lake Okeechobee

BUCKHEAD RIDGE, FL (WFLX) Firefighters are battling a large wildfire inside Lake Okeechobee. Lightning sparked the fire on the northwest side of the lake near Buckhead Ridge Tuesday night. The Florida Division of Forestry said as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the fire spread to 1,000 acres with the potential to grow to 12,000 acres; however, no homes are affected.

Fires inside Lake Okeechobee are not unusual. The Division of Forestry said they have occurred during droughts in 2004, 2006, and 2008. What is unusual is to have a fire spark in September after the area has usually seen enough rain during the summer months.

Strong winds have been shifting the smoke and fire and causing embers to spread, but firefighters say that wind can also push the fire to give them an advantage.

"If the wind just dies, the fire stops moving," explained Senior Ranger Danny Callahan with Glades County Fire Rescue. "We want the fire to back off of our line so with a little bit of wind with it. It'll back off a little quicker and hopefully not take this process as long."

Firefighters are now taking extreme measures to control the fire, fighting it from the air, as well. The Florida Division of Forestry sent up a helicopter to drop ping-pong-sized containers with a combination of chemicals that will start small fires on the ground. Melissa Yunas with the Division of Forestry said it allows firefighters to "fight fire with fire."

"These little spot fires that the helicopter is creating, what they do is they start spot fires that burn into each other and burn themselves out," she said. "And if he (pilot) does it enough times as quickly as he can we'll have the entire 12,000 acres burned out in a day."

Smoke from the fire could be a nuisance for people who live in the area. The Division of Forestry warned if you are sensitive to smoke, try to stay indoors.

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