MIAMI — A 2,000-acre fire fueled by persistent winds and dry grasses forced the closure Monday of an 18-mile stretch of U.S. 1, the main artery into the Florida Keys.
The stretch of two-lane highway between Florida City and Key Largo was expected to remain closed until sometime today, said Laverne Guillen, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue.
"The wind is very gusty and it's making the fire spread quickly," said Lt. Ernesto Duarte of the Florida Highway Patrol.
Forestry officials said early reports suggested the blaze was sparked by a campfire. The fire was burning west toward the Everglades and did not threaten any buildings.
Another fire Monday had burned as many as 500 acres in a prairie in central Florida. Firefighters were trying to contain the blaze with air tankers to prevent it from spreading deeper into the 3,000-acre prairie, said Paul Palmiotto, an officer with the Florida Division of Forestry. No homes were immediately threatened.
Blazes in Sarasota and Charlotte counties in southwestern Florida have scorched more than 8,000 acres since Wednesday, including a 6,400-acre fire in Sarasota County that was 90% contained Monday, Palmiotto said.
Another fire in Charlotte County seared 1,700 acres of a wooded subdivision, destroying one home, damaging dozens of others and forcing the temporary evacuation of 100 families.
Charlotte County authorities were searching for one or more arsonists they believe set blazes that caused an estimated $1 million in damage.
Meanwhile, a 1,500-acre fire in Miami-Dade County near the Miccosukee Indian Reservation was contained Monday, Palmiotto said.