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Stinky Florida swamp fire will smolder on

DADE CITY — A 300-acre contained forest fire torching the western edge of the Green Swamp is expected to smolder for weeks, officials said.

Blame several weak rainy seasons.

"Over the last several years, these swamps have been drying out, which exposes the swamp bottom," said Don Ruths, a wildfire prevention specialist with the Florida Division of Forestry. "Once a fire starts, it ignites the peat, which burns very, very slowly."

And very unpleasantly.

"A muck fire creates quite an acrid stinky smell," Ruths said.

The stench could travel as far as Gainesville or Port Charlotte, depending on which way the wind blows.

At this point, The Florida Department of Transportation does not expect smoke to cause any road closures.

The fire ignited around 2 p.m. Tuesday. Swamp grass and brush lighted first, quickly lining the horizon with billowing brown smoke.

Pasco firefighters responded to the call and set up a perimeter around the three houses in the area. No evacuations were ordered.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Since it raged within 100 yards of one of the nearby homes, officials wonder if it was caused by embers from a bonfire, or another fire set by someone.

"It looks a little suspicious. It could be human error," Ruths said. Lightning is the main cause of these muck fires. People are the second, he said.

Officials will monitor the forest fire nonstop until it is out, and then visit the site regularly because peat can burn undetected several feet below the surface.

Ruths recommended that anyone bothered by the stink stay indoors with the windows closed.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

Stinky Florida swamp fire will smolder on 11/19/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 7:42pm]
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