Dry conditions still a concern after Collier wildfire

Posted at 6:21 PM, Mar 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-13 18:21:15-04

Fire crews in Collier County are gaining the upper hand on a massive wildfire that started over a week ago. But while state forest officials say the fire is 85% contained, a dry and windy forecast could mean more problems in the near future.

The wildfire, which began in the Picayune Strand State Forest, grew to over 7,200 acres last week, and forced residents in the Forest Glen, Panther's Walk and Club Naples communities to evacuate.  Several homes on LeBuff and Benfield Roads, just south of I-75 near the eastbound tollgate plaza, were destroyed.

Despite a modest amount of recent rainfall in the area, Florida Forest Service spokeswoman Samantha Quinn said that continued dry conditions are keeping crews monitoring for potential flare-ups.

"Because it's so dry out right now, we have a duff layer which is below the normal leaf litter layer, and that's what's really dry," Quinn said. "There's concern that there are hotspots that could re-ignite."

Heavy wind gusts are what helped the wildfire spread so fast last Tuesday, and more windy weather is forecasted for later this week. 

Quinn said crews have rotated to give them a break, in case they have to deal with a similar situation again soon. Firefighters with the forest service are monitoring the hotspots currently.

"That gave our local resources a chance to pull away from the fires so they could rest, and respond to local emergencies," Quinn said.