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The Everglades Is on Fire

A massive wildfire has consumed more than 17,000 acres of the Everglades in less than 24 hours.

by Alex Lubben
Jun 24 2019, 10:40pm

This is a breaking story. Please refresh for updates.

Correction 6/24 8:26 p.m.: A previous version of this story stated that the Sawgrass Fire was burning through Everglades National Park. This fire is in the Everglades but not in the Everglades National Park, which is southwest of the fire.

A massive wildfire has consumed more than 17,000 acres of the Everglades in less than 24 hours, the Florida Forest Service told VICE News.

Officials believe lightning started the blaze Sunday evening in west-central Broward County. Since then, the flames spread quickly: As of 4 p.m. on Monday afternoon, an area of 17,000 acres was burning — and had been 0% contained.

The fire isn’t currently threatening any structures, according to the forest service. The main concern is for drivers along I-75, which is still open but expected to be engulfed in smoke.

The wind is forecasted to start coming out of the southwest, which will begin to push the fire east toward another highway.

“This is totally different from a regular wildfire; it’s all sawgrass,” said Scott Peterich, a local wildfire mitigation specialist with Florida Forest Service.

Sawgrass is a long, narrow plant that grows well in wet environments. It’s covering an area of some 165,000 acres around where it’s currently burning in the Everglades.

“I do not believe that this area has burned in a couple of years,” Peterich added. “It was designed to burn, but it hasn’t burned in a while.”

Brush fires happen regularly in the Everglades — one blaze, just a few months ago in December, burned over at least 2,300 acres. But the Sawgrass Fire is already particularly large. Another huge fire in the Everglades National Park in 2008 burned over 40,000 acres.

Cover image: Courtesy of the Florida Forest Service