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An uncontrolled Collier County fire grows to 8,400 acres despite weeklong containment efforts

Sandy Wildfire, Big Cypress National Preserve
Matt Counts
/
Special to WGCU
Sandy Wildfire, Big Cypress National Preserve

The Sandy Fire broke out Monday at 50 acres in the far eastern part of Collier County. By Sunday morning the fire had spread to 8,398 acres and containment remained at 0%.

OCHOPEE – Wildland firefighters in Big Cypress National Preserve were working Sunday to try to contain any part of the Sandy Fire, which has charred 8,400 acres and is still burning.

The Sandy Fire broke out Monday in an area of the preserve in the far eastern part of Collier County. By Sunday morning, firefighters caught a break as wildfire weather conditions turned less favorable as crews worked to keep the fire from another surge.

Riki Hoopes, a National Park Service wildfire information officer, said that as of late Saturday night crews set small, controlled fires around structures on the northern edge of the wildfire to protect the buildings.

Hoopes said that the decrease in fire behavior also allowed firefighters to improve fire breaks and other control lines created over the last several days south of Interstate 75.

Helicopter pilots were using "Bambi" buckets to drop water on hotspots. Ground crews charred small pockets of unburned woods near the Oasis Trail, keeping pace with the main fire while crews scouted newer control lines to the south toward U.S. 41.

Anatomy of a wildfire:

Sandy Wildfire, Big Cypress National Preserve
Matt Counts
/
Special to WGCU
Sandy Wildfire, Big Cypress National Preserve

As the fire continues to move to the south, smoke impacts become more likely on U.S. 41 and travelers were urged to use caution in the area.

Phase One of the Sandy Wildfire Evacuation Plan remains in effect. Nearby residents will be notified by fire managers if the evacuation phase is upgraded.

  • Phase One: Residents within evacuation zone are notified of potential fire impacts and advised to create defensible space around home if possible.
  • Phase Two: Residents within evacuation zone should be packed and ready to evacuate.  Residents with preexisting health conditions will be encouraged to leave at this time.
  • Phase Three: Residents will be advised to leave as fire threat is imminent.

Closures remain in effect west of 11 Mile Road, north of U.S. 41, east of Monument Trail, and south of Mud Lake, Little Deer, Oasis Trail and Lost Dog to ensure the safety of the public and allow firefighters to work without impediment.

Copyright 2023 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Michael Braun