Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Officials: Brush fire caused by ATV

SOUTH DADE -- A Card Sound Road brush fire burned 1,900 acres over seven days before forest service crews called the flames 100 percent contained.

The fire, which began Easter Sunday, was caused by recreational equipment, according to Florida Forest Service spokesman Scott Peterich.

People operating all-terrain-vehicles most likely sparked dry sawgrass, Peterich said. ATV use in that area is legal when it occurs on private property on the Miami-Dade side of Card Sound Road. Monitoring that usage is almost impossible for the forest service as the smaller vehicles can access areas the forest service cannot.

"They can run off places where we just cannot get into," he said.

Part of the challenge in fighting last week's fire was accessing the flames.

No homes were ever in danger, and the forest service decided not to activate its helicopter from Okeechobee.

The only business affected was Alabama Jack's, which had to send staff home on what was expected to be a busy Easter Sunday. When smoke engulfed the road on subsequent days, the business suffered from road closures.

Smoke on the highway was one of the toughest parts of dealing with this fire. At night, Peterich said the smoke would settle on the roadway, making it almost impossible to see.

"We weren't just thinking of the traffic, but the safety of the firefighters," he said.

Peterich described the fire as slow and cumbersome as it fed off the dry and sometimes windy weather.

"This fire liked to slowly meander through sawgrass and clumps of trees," he said.

Crews used different methods to handle the blaze, including fighting fire with fire, otherwise known as backburning.

Though the forest service cannot restrict ATV usage on private property, Peterich says using basic safety precautions, including not letting vehicles sit in idle, could prevent similar situations.

jgore@keysnews.com

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