Photos of mask-wearing personnel at the 36th Av SE Fire near Naples, Florida

covid-19 36th Ave. SE Fire Naples Florida wildfire wear masks firefighters
36th Ave. SE Fire — Greater Naples Fire Rescue District.

These photos of personnel at the 36th Ave. SE Fire about 10 miles east of Naples, Florida show that many of the emergency management staff members were wearing masks.

The photos by the Greater Naples Fire Rescue District were posted May 14, 2020.

covid-19 36th Ave. SE Fire Naples Florida wildfire wear masks firefighters
36th Ave. SE Fire — Greater Naples Fire Rescue District.
covid-19 36th Ave. SE Fire Naples Florida wildfire wear masks firefighters
36th Ave. SE Fire — Greater Naples Fire Rescue District.
covid-19 36th Ave. SE Fire Naples Florida wildfire wear masks firefighters
36th Ave. SE Fire — Greater Naples Fire Rescue District.
covid-19 36th Ave. SE Fire Naples Florida wildfire wear masks firefighters
36th Ave. SE Fire — Greater Naples Fire Rescue District.

More information about the 36th Ave. SE Fire east of Naples.

Wildfires east of Naples, FL force evacuations

The fires have burned at least 4,000 acres

Map for the 36th Ave. SE Fire wildfire Naples Florida
Map for the 36th Ave. SE Fire, released by the Florida Forest Service, May 15, 2020.

(UPDATED at 1:37 p.m. EDT May 15, 2020)

The Florida Forest Service Green Incident Management Team assumed command of the 36th Ave SE Fire at 7 a.m. today. The team reports the latest size of the fire is 8,500 acres.

Mandatory evacuations are still in place on both sides of Alligator Alley (Interstate 75). Friday morning, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office gave an update on the situation, saying no additional evacuations are expected today those in effect will remain throughout the day.

Currently, the FFS has 16 tractor/plow units from around the state battling the blaze, along with 3 single engine air tankers, 1 fixed wing aircraft, and 4 helicopters, including the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Air Rescue 1 which is assisting with water drops.

A large air tanker out of Lake City, Florida an MD-87, is also being used. Yesterday the aircraft completed four sorties to the fire — each time dropping 4,000 gallons.


map wildfires Naples Florida
Map showing heat detected by satellites on the 22nd Ave. SE and the 36th Ave. SE fires, at 12:30 a.m. EDT May 14, 2020.

(UPDATED at 6:25 p.m. EDT May 14, 2020)

The two wildfires 10 to 12 miles east of Naples, Florida have merged and by 4 p.m. EDT Thursday had grown to about 8,000 acres according to the Florida Forest Service (FFS). The fire is now known as the 36th Ave. SE Fire.

The FFS is working in unified command with local fire and emergency responders, including the Greater Naples Fire Rescue, North Collier Fire Rescue, Marco Island Fire Rescue, Collier County Emergency Management, Collier County Sheriff’s Office and many others. Currently, the FFS has 16 tractor/plow units battling the blaze, along with 3 single engine air tankers, 1 fixed wing aircraft, and 3 helicopters, including the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Air Rescue 1, which is assisting with water drops.

Additional FFS resources have been deployed, including the Green Incident Management Team, a dozer strike team from Northeast Florida, and 2 dozer strike teams which are en route from the Five Mile Swamp Fire in the Panhandle. The Florida Fire Chiefs Association is securing resources to provide additional structure protection.

Details about evacuations can be found at the Facebook page for Collier County Emergency Management.

Currently, there are 80 active wildfires burning nearly 16,000 acres in Florida. Last week, the Florida Forest Service battled the 2,000-acre #5MileSwamp Fire in Santa Rosa County and the #MussettBayouFire in Walton County, in which an arrest was announced on Tuesday.

wildfires Naples Florida
Wildfire east of Naples Florida. Photo May 14, 2020 by Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.


(Originally published at 1 p.m. EDT May 14, 2020)

Two wildfires about 12 miles east of Naples, Florida have prompted mandatory evacuations and closed parts of Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley). Named 22nd Ave. SE Fire and 36th Ave. SE Fire, the two blazes merged Wednesday night and have burned approximately 4,000 acres according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office  in a Wednesday evening update. That night, pushed by winds described as moderate, the fire spread south across the Interstate requiring additional evacuations.

The fire behavior was described as extreme and burning embers were causing spot fires. Greater Naples Fire reported “several” structures have been lost or damaged, but they did not have an exact number.

At 1 p.m. EDT Thursday Interstate 75 was still closed between Highway 29 and Collier Blvd.

The Florida Forest Service has mobilized the Green Incident Management Team to assist local firefighters.

wildfires Naples Florida
Photo of the 22nd Ave. SE and the 36th Ave. SE wildfires, May 13, 2020. Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
map wildfires Naples Florida
Evacuation map posted by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday night.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Rob. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Moonfish Fire burns thousands of acres west of Miami

Map Moonfish Fire Big Cypress National Preserve
Map showing the approximate location of the Moonfish Fire in Big Cypress National Preserve at 2:42 p.m. EDT May 8, 2020.

A wildfire that started May 7 is spreading rapidly in Big Cypress National Preserve 37 miles west of Miami, Florida. The fire is south of Tamiami Trail near the shared boundary with Everglades National Park.

The Moonfish Fire is actively burning in sawgrass prairie and cypress strands. Full suppression actions are taking place given the current drought and wind conditions. Wildfire Today’s very unofficial estimate of the size is approximately 6,000 acres.

An MD-87 air tanker, Tanker 101, delivered a total of four loads of retardant on Thursday and Friday, flying out of the Lake City Tanker Base, a 650-mile round trip. On April 21 that aircraft lost an engine after dropping retardant on the Holcombe Road Fire in Crockett County Texas. The crew declared an emergency and landed safely on one engine after diverting to Midland, Texas (MAF) as airport crash-rescue trucks stood by.

Personnel from Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park are working the Moonfish Fire along with interagency assistance from Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and Miami-Dade Fire to protect structures in the area. Two helicopters and three engines were assigned to the fire on Thursday.

South Florida is currently experiencing hot, dry conditions typical of this time of year.

radar Map Moonfish Fire Big Cypress National Preserve
Radar detects smoke from the Moonfish Fire in Big Cypress National Preserve, 8 p.m. EDT May 8, 2020.

Wildfire burns structures and closes I-10 south of Milton, Florida

Started from an escaped prescribed fire on May 4

map Five Mile Fire Milton Florida Interstate 10
Map showing heat detected on the Five Mile Swamp Fire by a satellite at 2:48 a.m. CDT May 7, 2020.

(UPDATED at 9:50 a.m. CDT May 7, 2020)

Satellite data collected overnight shows heat from the Five Mile Swamp Fire well south of Interstate 10 on both sides of Garcon Point Road approaching Blackwater Bay.


(Originally published at 9 p.m. CDT May 6, 2020)

map Five Mile Fire Milton Florida Interstate 10
Map showing heat detected on the Five Mile Swamp Fire by a satellite at 3:24 p.m. CDT May 6, 2020.

Strong winds and low relative humidity caused a wildfire in the panhandle of Florida to grow about eight times its size Wednesday. The Five Mile Swamp Fire started from an escaped prescribed fire Monday afternoon and by Wednesday afternoon had blackened approximately 2,000 acres (up from 250 acres Wednesday morning) forcing the closure of Interstate 10 south of Milton, Florida.

The fire is burning on both sides of Interstate 10 about five miles south of Milton. The Florida Forest Service (FFS) reports several structures south of I-10 have been damaged or destroyed.

On Wednesday resources working the fire included 18 tractor/plow units, 3 helicopters, and firefighters from multiple departments throughout Santa Rosa County.

Residents of Ski Lane north of I-10, and those south of I-10 and east of Avalon Boulevard have been ordered to evacuate.

About 1,100 residences are threatened by the Five Mile Swamp Fire.

Five Mile Fire Milton Florida Interstate 10

The prescribed fire from which the wildfire escaped was on private land east of the former Moors golf course, east of Avalon Blvd., and north of I-10. Described as a “#GoodFire” by the Florida Forest Service in a May 4 tweet, it was expected to burn only 250 acres.

Dozers built fireline through 3,500 burning rental cars

The catastrophe may have been an indirect effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 7,300 unused rental cars were stored in a grassy field.

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
Behind the firefighter is a pile of cars made as heavy equipment built a fireline to stop the spreading fire. More than 3,500 rental cars burn at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Fort Myers Fire Department photo.

As thousands of rental cars were burning on April 3 in a temporary overflow parking area at the Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) near Fort Myers, Florida the firefighters were faced with an unprecedented scenario. Should they use dozers to build a fireline through the 7,366 parked cars to create a barrier to stop the fire?

(We first wrote about the 3,516 burned cars on April 4, 2020)

The call came in at about 4:40 p.m. Burning like a wildfire, the blaze was rapidly spreading through a grassy field, a temporary parking area for the rental cars. When the wind pushed the fire through the vehicles parked bumper to bumper in long rows, hundreds of burning cars became thousands. Dark black smoke rose in a convection column that leaned over, pushed over by the wind. A small pyrocumulus cloud formed at the top of the column, a phenomenon usually only seen on very intensely burning wildfires.

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
A small pyrocumulus cloud forms over the convection column of smoke as over 3,500 rental cars burned at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida. Photo by Sean Tully, April 3, 2020.

“The cars were stored in a location not ordinarily used for any specific purpose”, said Victoria B. Moreland, Director of Communications and Marketing for the airport. “The large number was due to the car rental agencies serving RSW not renting inventory during the peak season due to the current COVID-19 crisis.”

map rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
The arrow points to the location where 3,516 rental cars burned April 3, 2020 at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida. Google Earth/Wildfire Today.

The cars were parked across the road from a gas station in a grassy field southeast of Terminal Access Road which leads to the airport. From photos, it appeared that the grass had at one time been mowed, but not low to the ground like a lawn, it was several inches high. The grass was mostly dead but was just beginning its spring green-up. The grass allowed the fire to spread easily from car to car, but since they were parked so closely together, the fuel (the cars) was continuous in most areas allowing the fire to spread by radiant and convective heat car-to-car.

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
More than 3,500 rental cars burn at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Fort Myers Fire Department photo.

Firefighters and equipment from at least 11 fire departments arrived to help suppress the fire. Four dozers from the Florida Forest Service worked on the side of the fire that burned into trees and heavier vegetation, building a fireline — scraping the ground bare so that the fire could not spread any further. Helicopters dropped water on the burning cars. The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office reported that one of their Huey helicopters flown by Chief Pilot Shane Engelauf made over 80 water drops on the fire.

helicopter rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
A helicopter drops water as more than 3,500 rental cars burn at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Fort Myers Fire Department photo.

After I saw two photos taken at the scene showing piles of cars two or three layers deep and stacked at random angles, I began making inquiries to ask if dozers had been used to build a fireline through the parked cars in an attempt to separate the burning cars from the unburned cars, possibly sacrificing some undamaged cars in the process as they worked the big machines near the advancing flames.

A similar tactic was used at an automobile wrecking yard April 1 in Kern County, California when an intense fire was burning through piles of crushed cars. (see photo below)

Mojave Incident 4-1-2020 Kern Co FD
A dozer builds a fireline through crushed cars as a fire burns in a wrecking yard in Kern County, California April 1, 2020. Kern County FD photo.

Tracy W. Young, Chief of Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting at the airport told us that heavy equipment was in fact used to stop the spread of the fire.

“Tomahawk Construction and Port Authority provided heavy equipment (front end loaders) which were used to push cars and create a fire break,” Chief Young told us. “Because the fire was so large, the strategy was to create a fire line flanking the fire and in front of the fire’s head to prevent further spread. Fire Crash apparatus [trucks] and numerous other fire apparatus were used to protect the heavy equipment as they moved cars. ”

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
A pile of cars made as heavy equipment built a fireline to stop the spreading fire. More than 3,500 rental cars burned at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Andres West / News-Press photo.

The tactic to use dozers or heavy equipment was successful, saving more than half of the cars. The firefighters worked on the fire into the night and it was out the next day.

“This fire was particularly unique as it was found in ample open space, close to thick brush,” said Fort Myers Beach Fire Department Executive Assistant Chief Ron Martin. “This open space and wind conditions served to fuel the fire, and crews (needed) to contend with a wildland fire and several thousand cars that were on fire.”

The final tally:

  • 3,516 cars were damaged or destroyed;
  • 3,850 were saved.

This fire, or at least the scope it it, may have been an indirect effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. With tourism and air travel brought to a near standstill the rental car agencies at the Southwest Florida International Airport suddenly found themselves with over 7,300 cars that could not be parked in their paved parking lots near the terminal. Placing them bumper-to-bumper over dead grass created an environment that made a fire, once started, difficult to access and suppress as it spread in the grass and moved from car to car.

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
More than 3,500 rental cars burn at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Fort Myers Fire Department photo.

Explosive target at gender reveal party turns into 10-acre wildfire

Sawmill Fire
File photo of the Sawmill Fire in Arizona, early in the morning on April 24, 2017. It was caused by an exploding target. Photo by Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

From CNN, April 4, 2020:

A gender reveal party in Florida went wrong and sparked a 10-acre fire, CNN affiliate WESH reported. Firefighters were called to a home in Brevard County, Florida, last weekend after reports that a blaze was possibly ignited by fireworks, fire officials said. But when they arrived, firefighters realized some explosives had been in the mix.

“We were informed that it was caused by a gender reveal using Tannerite and a weapon,” Brevard County Fire Rescue Chief Mark Schollmeyer told WESH. Tannerite is a highly explosive substance often used as a rifle target.

The county had been under a burn ban, including outdoor activities such as campfires, bonfires and trash burning, because of the dry conditions in the region. The order comes with a fine of up to $500. It’s unclear whether anyone faced a fine.

A gender reveal party in Arizona in 2017 ignited the 46,000-acre Sawmill Fire when an off-duty Border Patrol agent shot a Tannerite explosive target. The agent pleaded guilty and was ordered to make an initial payment of $100,000, then make monthly payments after that. According to the Arizona Daily Star and the Green Valley News, he agreed in court to pay $500 a month for the next 20 years, which adds up to $120,000, for a total of $220,000. He was also sentenced to 5 years of probation and agreed to participate in a public service announcement with the U.S. Forest Service concerning the cause of the Sawmill fire.

Exploding targets consist of two ingredients that when mixed by the end user explode when shot by a high-velocity projectile.  After the ingredients are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Exploding targets have caused many fires since they became more popular in recent years, have been banned in some areas, and caused the death of at least one person.