Mandatory evacutions lifted in Collier County

Posted at 7:35 AM, Mar 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-09 07:25:10-05

UPDATE (3PM) --  All mandatory evacuations are now lifted in Collier County because of the wildfire.


NAPLES, Fla. -- The Collier County brush fire was lighting up the night sky with fierce flames and billowing smoke overnight Tuesday.  At least 7,500 acres have been scorched from the fire so far, and it is only 40% contained.

According to the Florida Forest Service, winds have died down and the relative humidity has increased, allowing firefighters an opportunity to gain access closer to the wildfire as fire activity decreased.

During the evening hours, firefighters reported the sky looked like “Chinese lanterns” as the fire brands floated across I-75. One spot fire was detected at the Naples Landfill and quickly contained at one acre.

Florida Forest Service’s firefighting bulldozers quickly encircling the wildfire with a dirt containment line which allows the wildfire to burn itself out.  State Firefighting bulldozers established firebreaks behind the RV Parks and horse stables while structure firefighters patrolled the perimeter while also protecting structures.

The fire is holding at County Road 951 (Collier Boulevard) which allowed for the road closures to be lifted Wednesday morning, although intermittent closures may take place throughout the day.

Evacuations for the Forest Glen community and the Aventine at Naples Apartments were lifted overnight.

The mandatory evacuations for the Club Naples RV Park, Panther Walk RV Park and Horse Stables in the Picayune Strand State Forest including Triple V and M & H Stables were lifted late Wednesday.

A shelter has been established at the Golden Gate Community Center (4701 Golden Gate Parkway in Naples).

But what does "40% contained" really mean?  The Florida Forest Service tells Fox 4 that containment percentage is just an estimate.  In addition to spraying water on the fire, crews are using bulldozers and other equipment to dig trenches around the fire to stop it from spreading.

So when they say 40% contained, they mean they have trenches around about 40% of the fire.
We're expecting an update on that number later this morning.

More than 120 firefighters are battling the fire, with crews from as far as Sarasota and Punta Gorda also joining together to keep the fire from burning homes.

According to the forestry service, 14 bulldozers are on scene, along with 20 brush fire trucks, 16 engines, as well as a few planes and helicopters.

Interstate 75 is completely closed between the exits at State Road 29 (mile marker #80) and Golden Gate Parkway (mile marker #105).

However, despite the brush fire, all schools in Collier County will be operating normally Wednesday morning.

Students were forced to evacuate Lely Elementary on Tuesday as a safety precaution because of heavy smoke. The flames themselves never actually threatened the school.  Students and staff were moved to Calusa Park Elementary.

And when it comes to evacuations, there are a few things safety advocates say you should consider to keep you and your family safe. Remember the five “P's": make sure you gather all people and pets, don't leave behind any important papers and prescriptions. You're also urged to remember pictures and your personal computer.

If you live in Collier County and you have questions related to the fire, Collier County Emergency Services has a hotline open: (239) 252-8444.

And the Florida Forestry Service has released their fire danger forecast for Wednesday.  They say Charlotte, Lee, and Glades are at high risk for new brush fires Wednesday.  Meanwhile Collier and Hendry counties are at moderate risks.

These are only forecasts, and they can change throughout the day.

And one of the challenges crews face when fighting fires are shifting winds. According to the latest release from the forestry service, that has also been a concern here. Maps show the fire has spread due to shifting winds over the past two days, with breezes Tuesday shifting the wildfire six miles closer to Naples.