JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Get used to some smoky conditions around Tillie Fowler Regional Park on the Westside.
The Florida Forest Service Jacksonville said because the fire in the park is in a marshy area that’s hard to access, they’re focusing their efforts on the fire edges. On one side, the Park’s Island Trail is closed to the public, and FFS Jacksonville is using that to help with containment.
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“We’ve got some firefighters with blowers, backpack blowers and some hand tools, and they’re blowing off those trails so we can secure them, and they’ll work as a fire break,” FFS Jax wildfire mitigation specialist Annaleasa Winter said.
On the other side of the fire, it’s not very well defined and it’s difficult for crews to get to, so a helicopter is being used to drop water from above every few minutes. The good news, according to Winter, is they don’t expect the fire to grow much beyond the 28.3 acres they currently have it measured as. She said it is largely organic material that’s smoldering and smoking at this time, as opposed to a lot of active flames.
“Until those edges are totally secured and we feel like it’s not going anywhere, we’re gonna continue to be out here working and mopping it up,” Winter said.
The #OrtegaRiverFire is 28.3 acres & 30% contained. The cause is likely lightning from Sunday's thunderstorms. @FLForestService firefighters are building handlines and blowing off hiking trails to secure the fire edge. Pockets of organic material will be smoking for several days. pic.twitter.com/2fCce8ID4O— FFS_Jacksonville (@FFS_Jax) May 15, 2019
Currently, the fire is about 30% contained, and it is expected to stay that way into Thursday.
Winter said they believe this fire was started by lightning on Sunday, and slowly picked up until the smoke became noticeable on Tuesday. She says the smoky conditions will likely persist for several days, because of those smoldering areas in the interior that they can’t get to.
The fire is south of Timuquana and across Roosevelt from NAS Jacksonville. The base is warning drivers to use caution because smoke can limit visibility on the roads, while also encouraging everyone to be aware of the impact on air quality.
Rain is not expected to help this scene, because we’re in a more than weeklong projected dry stretch in Jacksonville. Winter said that is especially challenging, because we’re getting in to the peak of wildfire season overall.
“Fire danger will be increasing every day without rain,” she said.
At this point, she says fires are mainly caused by people, although as afternoon storms start to kick in, lightning will also contribute.
Due to the fire currently burning in the area, State Forestry has closed the Island trail at Tillie Fowler Regional Park until further notice. Stay tuned to the City of Jacksonville social media channels for further updates. pic.twitter.com/bQ03vkKQuu— City of Jacksonville (@CityofJax) May 15, 2019
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