MIAMI Residents of Miami and its surrounding areas have been waking up this week to the sight of a smoky haze and a strong smell of burning blown eastwards by winds from a big wildfire raging in the Everglades.
The blaze, which fire officers say is contained, has burned over 38,000 acres of the Big Cypress National Preserve in the western part of the Everglades. It started two weeks ago after lightning strikes ignited the swamp brush and forest.
Authorities have been recommending that the elderly, young children, pregnant women and people with respiratory problems such as asthma avoid going outdoors, and keep the windows shut.
"If people do have to go outside, then we are asking them to pace themselves and not to overexert themselves," Miami-Dade Environmental Resource Management spokesperson Luis Espinoza told Reuters on Thursday.
The haze was visible at Miami's international airport earlier on Thursday but did not disrupt flights. It appeared to have cleared somewhat later on.
"It was like there was mist in the air and there was a smell of smoke ... I'd heard about the fire and I knew it was that," said housewife Isis Medina, 56, as she went for a morning walk in the Pinecrest neighborhood.
Authorities say the wildfire poses no hazard to cities as it is burning in an uninhabited area of the South Florida peninsula, more than 60 miles from most major cities including Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.
(Reporting by Shurna Robbins, Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Greg McCune)