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Florida Fires Close In On Homes

Residents in southeast Florida are being told Tuesday to clear out, as the fires creep closer to their homes. Fires charred more than 100,000 acres across the state in the past month, as dry conditions have created one of the worst outbreaks of wildfires in Florida in more than 50 years.

"It's so hot, I can't breathe. It's all over your body, your face. The heat is so intense, the smoke is so thick," one resident told WKMG-TV Reporter Nicole Smith.

It seems a blanket of smoke has settled over Volusia County, and the heat goes through the dry brush.

"I thought the house was going to go up. I thought for sure everything would be gone," said resident Ian McQueen.

McQueen couldn't wait for firefighters. The hose was the only defense against the flames.

"I was nervous. I was starting to get scared when it came here and the flames shot up through the trees," McQueen said.

Despite the heat and the smoke, some people won't leave their homes. All they can do now is pray for rain.

Since May 25, wildfires have charred 100,000 acres, erupting in every county in Florida except Monroe, which covers the Florida Keys. Twenty-thousand acres were scorched Monday alone.

The state is seeing an average of 80 new fires a day, 90 percent of them started by lightning.

The blazes have destroyed more than 100 homes and structures, damaged an estimated $10 million in commercial timber, and left a smoky haze in cities such as Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, Tallahassee, and Orlando. Another $100 million in crop damage has been caused by the stifling heat.

At least 17 people have been injured.

State Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford has urged all 67 counties to suspend July 4 fireworks displays because of dangerously dry conditions. Nine counties have imposed a ban; at least eight others are considering similar action.

Fires Monday closed State Road 40 in Ormond Beach and part of U.S. 92 near Daytona Beach. A 30-mile stretch of Interstate 95 north of Ormond Beach was closed in Flagler County for a short time Monday evening because of thick smoke.

On the Gulf Coast a smoky haze hung over Perry on Monday, about 50 miles southeast of Tallahassee in the heart of the state's timber industry. More than 10,000 acres, mostly unpopulated pine forest, had burned in Taylor County since the weekend.

Similarly dry conditions in northern New Mexico fed an 80-acre fire that roared through pine trees and forced some 300 people from their homes near Angel Fire, a mountain resort.

Evacuees were awaiting word Tuesday whether they could return to their homes after firefighters corralled the flames. Village administrator David King said the fire, reported Sunday evening, was started by a person.

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