South Florida smoky as fire scorches Everglades

Tuesday, May 20th 2008, 10:17 am
By: News 9

MIAMI (AP) -- South Florida's smoky skies cleared slightly Tuesday despite a growing wildfire in Everglades National Park, but officials still advised children, the elderly and people with breathing problems to stay indoors.

A dense smoke advisory posted Monday afternoon was canceled Tuesday morning after wind conditions improved visibility for drivers in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

The smoke was still expected to cause moderate to unhealthy air quality conditions, according to Miami-Dade's Department of Environmental Resources Management.

"Smoke is still around and will be around South Florida for the next few days, but as far as visibility it was canceled," said Andrew Tingler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami.

The fire was burning almost 40,000 acres -- or more than 62 square miles -- of Everglades National Park and was 30 percent contained. It had been at about 36,000 acres on Monday. Officials hope rising humidity will slow its spread.

"Firefighters are in a much better position this morning because it only spread somewhat on Monday," said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Nina Barrow.

About 2,000 people from the Everglades Correctional Institution and the Krome Detention Center were relocated Monday to other facilities around the state as the flames burned close to both facilities.

The wildfire also was burning in the only known habitat for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Water flow was increased to the area, and state officials said the birds appeared to be safe.

Firefighters were battling blazes from Brevard County on the Atlantic coast south to Miami-Dade County that have burned more than 120 square miles, said Gerry LaCavera, a wildfire spokesman with the state Division of Forestry.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)