Everglades fire burns for fourth day, near U.S. 27 - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Everglades fire burns for fourth day, near U.S. 27

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WEST BROWARD, Fla. (WSVN) -- A line of fire continues to ravage the Everglades, Tuesday, but fire crews are gaining control of the flames.

Crews are monitoring a brush fire that has burned through about 27,000 acres of sawgrass and trees in the Everglades, in Western Broward County.

By Tuesday morning, hazy conditions had improved significantly. By the evening, Forest Service officials said, the fire was near 70 percent contained.

Officials said they believe a lightning strike on Saturday may have sparked the brush fire.

Weather conditions on Monday caused flames to spread. "The weather storm just took all the flames and wind came up and pushed it, so that's why we have a unburned fuel right there that's burning right now," said Scott Peterich, who is with the Florida Forest Service.

Blackwater airboat Capt. Justin Freeman canceled tours Monday due to thick smoke blanketing the air.

"That smoke covered the road, and I was like I didn't know how thick it was going to be," said Freeman. "My normal tour's $375 for the trip, so that's pretty much what I lost to cancel that trip for the day."

"Oh, it's a huge fire, but in comparison of the totality of the Everglades, it's really just a small area," said tour guide Jim Leljedal.

Leljedal is a tour guide for Sawgrass Airboat Rides. People travel from all over the world to get up close to the unique South Florida ecosystem. But this week has been rough. "There are three kinds of grass out here," explained Leljedal, "and it's all dry because it's that time of year when the water level is very low, the grass is very dry, and it's brown instead of green like it should be, and it's susceptible to catching fire."

Despite the fire's enormity, it's part of the natural process to encourage growth in the Everglades. "It is actually part of the process," said Leljedal, "and there are fires, and the fire actually has a renewing affect on the Everglades, so it's not a bad thing."

Throughout the day, the smoke could clearly be seen from Palm Beach County into Miami-Dade, as wind blew the smoke east.

The smoke was so bad, both Miami-Dade and Broward health officials issued health advisories, especially for children, elderly and those with respiratory issues. "In an abundance of caution, just stay indoors, just stay out of being exposed to the ash. That way we're breathing clean, filtered air, until this blows over," said Dr. Nabil El Sanadi of the Broward Health Medical Center .

Monday morning, residents woke up to ash on their cars and a strong smell of smoke in the air. "The car was covered this morning with soot. You could smell it," said Keith Chatting. "In fact, if you have a breathing condition, like asthma or something, I wouldn't recommend it."

The winds have changed direction, and Tuesday was a much clearer day, however.

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