Dear Readers,

The coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread disruption to the lives of everyone in Tampa Bay and to so many businesses in our community. Here at the Tampa Bay Times, we continue to provide free, up-to-date information at as a public service. But we need your help. Please consider supporting us by subscribing or donating, and by sharing our work. Thank you.

  1. News

Polk wildfire contained, but expect "super fog" for a few days

The wildfire that scorched southeastern Polk County last week is 85 percent contained.

But, due to its size, the area could be besieged with smoke for the next few days, said Todd Chlanda, the Florida Forest Service wildfire mitigation specialist.

This could continue to create "super fog," which occurs when smoke mixes with natural fog to create near zero visibility.

On Monday morning, such fog forced some road closures in Polk County.

One was CR-630 from SR-60 to Walk In Water Road, but it has since been reopened.

"Motorists should continue to use caution," Sgt. Steve Gaskins, spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol. "A sudden wind shift could redirect smoke onto a roadway. You could be driving along and everything is fine and then suddenly have zero visibility."

Gaskins suggests drivers in that area of Polk County keep their headlights on, even during the day, and their speed low.

The fire, which started in the middle of last week, blanketed roads in smoke, consumed camp facilities, destroyed about a dozen homes and forced 800 homes to be temporarily evacuated. Residents have since returned home.

The total acreage burned now stands at 5,500 acres, Chlanda said.

Later today, the Florida Forrest Service will send employees out on ATVs to drive the perimeter to reassess that total.

Firefighters will use more water on the hot spots today. This may cause a burst of more smoke but will not be sustained since that will "put the fire dead out."