Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

The Avon Park wildfire we could smell from Tampa Bay now 50 percent contained

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Folks who smelled smoke while leaving their homes in the immediate Tampa Bay area on Thursday shouldn't have been alarmed. There was no wildfire in their backyard.

There is a fire, but it's close to 100 miles away, if you're coming from St. Petersburg.

The smoky smell has traveled from a 6,000-acre wildfire in the Avon Park Air Force Bombing Range, an area straddling the Highlands-Polk County lines.

The wildfire was 50 percent contained by Thursday afternoon, firefighters said.

"We don't anticipate it leaving the range property," said the range's operations director Buck MacLaughlin.

The fire started in an "active impact area" during a military training session Wednesday, MacLaughlin said. The range has its own crew of firefighters, who are being assisted by the Florida Forest Service.

Because the grounds of the training area could have old explosives used in prior trainings near the ground's surface, crews are back-burning to box the fire in rather than using a bulldozer, MacLaughlin said. Mainly, he said, crews will ensure the fire doesn't spread but allow it to burn out.

So far crews have encountered no explosives.

Officials say more than 127 active wildfires are burning in Florida, and since the start of the year, there have been more than 2,100 fires that have burned 107,000 acres.

Easterly winds ranging about 10-15 mph were carrying the toasty scent toward Tampa Bay, Gilmore said. And as winds remained relatively breezy, the smell will stuck around throughout the morning.

To see current active wildfires, check out the Florida Forest Service's interactive map.

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