Officials worry winds could push fire

Published May 18, 2007

LAKE CITY - Firefighters have made progress containing a raging wildfire in North Florida, but strengthening winds over the next two days could cause problems, officials said Thursday.

"The next two days are supposed to be high-hazard days on that fire, " said Jim Harrell, a spokesman for the Florida Division of Forestry. "We're really concerned that high winds will push the fire."

With 198 active fires in Florida as of Thursday, the one near Lake City was the only fire still posing a significant threat, Harrell said. The Division of Forestry was watching an additional eight to 10 fires, he said, but those were all 80 percent to 95 percent contained.

The fire near Lake City was covering 120, 515 acres and was 65 percent contained, Harrell said.

"Firefighters have made good progress the past two days, " Harrell said. "It's been very mild weather."

Officials said as of Thursday, 725 homes remain evacuated, mostly located along U.S. 441, north of Interstate 10. Harrell said firefighters have been setting up near the homes to make sure they are not ignited by embers floating from the main fire.

Besides firefighters on the ground, Harrell said four tanker planes have dropped 2, 000 to 2, 500 gallons of retardant on the blaze to help strengthen the lines.

Seven new fires started in the state Thursday, covering 6.3 acres, Harrell said.