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Florida Forest Service: Late Afternoon Storm Doused Much Of Sawgrass Fire In Everglades

WESTON (CBSMiami) - A brush fire called the Sawgrass Fire continued to rage through the Everglades on the edge of western Broward County throughout much of Tuesday but a late afternoon storm, which packed strong winds and rain provided a benefit to firefighters.

At its height, more than 32-thousand acres burned and the fire was only 40 percent contained. But around 5 pm Tuesday a major storm moved in and brought good and bad news. Scott Peterich with the Florida Forest Service said the winds pushed the smoke and the flames from the large fire ever closer to I-75.

"This fire is moving very fast now because of the wind speed," Peterich said. "There's a considerable amount of smoke, especially by the toll plaza."

The smoke on the road and the poor visibility caused the Florida Highway Patrol to close the major highway for brief time — about 10 minutes — before visibility rapidly improved, thanks to the rains. Peterich said the storm had another benefit, too. It moved the fire closer to the water's edge, where it ran out of brush to burn.

"Once the fire is burned of fuel, it'll settle down," he said.

And it appeared to. Where flames ripped through brush just hours earlier and rained ash into Weston and other communities, the fire was mostly out nearest to Alligator Alley. The Forestry Service is monitoring the fire to make sure it doesn't flare. They said they believe the 52 acre fire is moving further north towards the Palm Beach County line. Meanwhile, Florida Highway Patrol troopers positioned themselves along I-75 Tuesday night to make sure there are no problems with smoke from the fire.

Earlier Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health issued an advisory about dangers of the smoke, warning people with asthma, heart problems or breathing problems to remain indoors. We spoke to an expert, Dr. Barbara Arcos, the Chair of Family Medicine at Nova Southeastern University.

"The community in general should do their best to stay inside, in the air conditioning with windows closed," she said. "If they have to travel outside, limit their exposure. Travel in their cars with the windows up and air on and set air to recirculate so they don't bring in outside air."

In nearby Weston, resident Carlos Rosa said he barely realized there was a brush fire.

"We've had a lot of rain," he said. "I'm surprised really that it's been this bad because I haven't noticed it, to be honest with you, like I have in the past."

Resident Elsa Gonzalez said her car was blanketed with ash and she frequently felt a choking sensation since lightning sparked the fire on Sunday evening.

But by evening Tuesday, with a brush fire in the distance the fire threat close to the highway appeared to relax. And the alligators were left to swim unimpeded.

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