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Firefighters Continue to Battle Wildfire in FloridaAired February 21, 2001 - 2:18 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Much needed rain is falling over part of Florida, but some areas are still incredibly dry. So dry that authorities in the Ft. Myers area have declared a state of emergency. That's where the fire burned earlier this week.
Right now, firefighters are still battling a wildfire that's charred about 11,000 acres in the central part of the state. Without heavy rain, they say, it could burn for weeks. And it could be several more days before a major highway connecting Tampa, Orlando and Daytona Beach, I-4, reopens.
Susan Candiotti joins us now from the fire lines -- Susan.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Natalie.
I may be fulfilling the dream that a lot of people might have. And that's the ability to walk down the middle of an interstate highway without any danger of being hit by traffic. That's because I'm standing on that stretch, that 10-mile stretch of Interstate 4 that runs across central Florida, that has been shut down just west of Orlando because of the brush fires running through this area.
And there might not be any danger from cars here. But there is other danger. Danger from smoke lofting over the highway, as well as falling trees that have been weakened by the wildfires.
There is also another danger. That, that's come from fence posts in this area, that have been burned down, allowing cows to roam out onto the highway.
Now, trees that haven't fallen on their own are currently being pulled out. And that's some of the work that you see going on now, being ripped out by the Division of Forestry, because these are all adding potential fuel to the fire. And then they're carting away the lumber here.
Now, the blaze so far, as you indicated, has consumed 11,000 acres thus far. It is 50 percent contained. And authorities say it will probably be several more days, perhaps the early part of next week, before they are able to reopen this particular section of I-4.
They're calling this the mop-up-and-containment phase. But they are not through with their work yet. And this symbolizing the -- symbolizes the brush fires that are currently going on across the state of Florida, where water-use restrictions are in place. We can tell you that so far, more than 800 fires have burned since the beginning of the year. And that is up 230 percent over the same period last year.
The answer is a rainfall. But so far, Natalie, none is forecast.
Back to you.
ALLEN: What a shame. Thank you, Susan Candiotti in Florida.
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