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Florida wildfires in Naples area force evacuations, temporarily closes Interstate 75

Florida wildfires fueled by winds and dry weather forced evacuations and closed parts of Interstate 75 in the Naples area for hours before it reopened Thursd...

Posted: May 15, 2020 3:48 AM

Florida wildfires fueled by winds and dry weather forced evacuations and closed parts of Interstate 75 in the Naples area for hours before it reopened Thursday.

Mandatory evacuation orders by the Greater Naples Fire Control District were prompted by "fast-moving" brush fires sweeping across at least 5,000 acres, according to a tweet by the Collier County sheriff.

Gov. Ron DeSantis traveled to the county Thursday afternoon and visited a command center to assess the situation and offer assistance, according to tweets from DeSantis and Greater Naples Fire.

It was unclear how many people were affected by the order but structures in the heavily wooded areas north of I-75 and the RV communities of Panther Walk and Club Naples were included, according to the sheriff's tweet.

The Collier County fire, which started as separate blazes, consumed at least 5,000 acres and had been 10% contained, according to Greater Naples Fire.

Fires raged on the northern and southern sides of I-75, known as Alligator Alley, CNN affiliate WINK reported.

Florida Highway Patrol shuttered a portion of I-75 at mile marker 80 -- which reopened Thursday afternoon, according to the agency. The stretch of interstate was closed about 20 hours, WINK reported.

Several homes were damaged or destroyed, according to WINK.

"Wildfire smoke can cause scratchy throat, coughing, headaches, and/or irritated eyes and nose," Florida Health Collier said via Twitter.

More than a dozen wildfires raged this week across Florida, which is known for hot weather. The year has been exceptionally torrid, with South Florida seeing June-like temperatures in April. A lack of rain across Florida hasn't helped.

The Florida Panhandle was hit hard, with wildfires last week prompting evacuations and road closures, including sections of Interstate 10 near Pensacola. In Walton County, the Mussett Bayou Fire destroyed multiple structures and forced officials to evacuate about 500 residents.

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