Firefighters: conditions are 'perfect' for wildfires

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NORTH PORT - Fire crews were still monitoring hot spots Thursday after a brush fire shut down a portion of I-75 in North Port Wednesday evening.  They spent Thursday mopping up and waiting for the next call.

"We were out there in a couple of minutes and found a good sized fire," says North Port Fire Marshal Michael Frantz.

Southbound lanes are now back open, and burn marks show just how close the fire came to the roadway.  Some nearby fences will need to be mended.

"It is particularly hazardous for a couple of reasons. Obviously smoke goes across the interstate and starts to become a danger to motorists. The other thing is we have firefighters and apparatus along the interstate."

Crews are still busy putting out hot spots and making sure nothing flares back up by pumping in water from the back of brush trucks. Despite some recent rains, North Port fire officials say it has done very little to keep the threat down. "As long as there is no moisture in the air and there is no moisture in the ground then everything is bone dry. This cold weather is just keeping the humidity down. It is perfect for spreading wildfires."

Red flag warnings for some the driest parts of Florida are still issued here. The area in the northeast part of town is frequented by some who don't necessarily heed all the warnings. "There is a lot of people that use that as an unofficial recreation site, if you will. People need to realize the fire dangers that we have here."

ATV riders and campers are often found there. Officials are still uncertain as to what caused the fire. At this point just asking everyone to play it safe. "This is not something on the forefront of peoples minds. They don't think about that cigarette they toss out the window. They don't think about that chain dragging with their trailer. We do because we see the results of it."

Six local agencies from Charlotte and Sarasota County were able to get to the fire Wednesday. Officials say that's how they are able to attack it and contain it so quickly.