I-95, Florida Turnpike open in Martin County after wildfire; Drivers still urged to be cautious

UPDATE: Drivers are being warned of some potentially tough driving conditions through Martin County Thursday morning.

Several signs are up along Interstate 95 telling drivers to reduce speed and be careful that lingering smoke may impair visibility after a massive wildfire near Stuart Wednesday afternoon.

Florida Forest Service crews are expected to be back in the area Thursday morning to put out any hotspots that are still remaining.

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Florida's Turnpike is back open after a wildfire forced the Florida Highway Patrol to shut it down Wednesday around 4:30 p.m. It was reopened around 9 p.m.

The 90-acre fire began on Pratt Whitney Road near South Fork High School in Martin County.  It started as a controlled burn.  Don Mancil with Mancil's Tractor Service says he was burning a pile of vegetation.

"The wind picked it up, took it away from me," Mancil said. 

The Florida Forest Service and Martin County Fire Rescue responded to the fire.  Winds fanned the flames and it spread east. Heavy smoke poured into the area like a fog. 

The out-of-control fire jumped the Turnpike and I-95.  According to FHP the Turnpike southbound was closed from mile marker 133 to mile marker 116.  Heavy smoke and poor visibility caused slowdowns on I-95 at mile marker 128 in Martin County.

The Martin Co. Sheriff's Office said South Fork High School was evacuated as a precaution.

The Florida Forest Service brought in heavy equipment to contain the fire. Crews dug lines around the fire to trap it. Even though the fire is out, the danger remains high. 

"There's still on the west side a lot of debris and logs and things burning and those will smolder," said Scott Peterich, spokesman for FFS.

Crews left late Wednesday evening. They will return Thursday morning to check hotspots. 

FFS says the company that did the burn had a permit which is good for six months. They will investigate what happened and if someone if negligent, they could be fined. 

 

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