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At least six brush fires had burned thousands of acres across Southwest Florida as of Thursday, spurring evacuations and shutting down a major interstate.
The Florida Forestry Service said that one of the fires near Naples threatened about 30 homes in the Collier County area of Golden Gate Estates. As of Wednesday night, the blaze grew to around 5,000 acres, separating into six different brush fires.
“We don’t have any reportable containment as of yet,” Greater Naples Fire Rescue District Chief Kingman Schuldt told the Naples Daily News.
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One of the fires caused a toll section of Interstate 75 known as Alligator Alley to close for about 20 miles, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The roadway was shut down as of Thursday morning.
Drone footage posted on Facebook showed huge clouds of smoke rising over affected areas.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were coordinating voluntary evacuations in nearby neighborhoods due to the blazes.
“We are asking that everyone please be patient with our first responders,” the sheriff’s office said on Facebook. “This is a dynamic situation and as apparatus is moved to fight the fire, there will be temporary road closures and traffic back-ups.”
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The Greater Naples Fire Department said units from all emergency agencies responded.
Schuldt told the Naples Daily News there were reports of residents near the brush fires who suffered minor injuries, such as smoke inhalation, and at least three firefighters suffered “medical conditions” while working the fires.
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Officials said fire conditions in Southwest Florida have been extreme to high since Tuesday, before tropical moisture arrives in the area.
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“We expect this to be an active operation for days to come,” Schuldt told the paper. “We are trying to get into a position to access and cut the fire off in some areas.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.