MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. – A brush fire in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge grew to 500 acres Friday afternoon and officials expect they'll be fighting the blaze through Saturday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
The blaze is off Blackpoint Wildlife Drive. It was reported about 3:30 p.m., said U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Candice Stevenson, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
Fish and Wildlife fire officials have a containment plan for the blaze, which could spread to thousands of acres before it is halted, Stevenson said.
Road closures for the fire include Blackpoint Wildlife Drive and State Road 406 between state roads 402 and 3, Stevenson said.
Fire and forestry officials have been concerned about dry conditions making Brevard County prone to wildfires.
Neighboring counties this week had several new brush fires, but Brevard had none.
Friday's fire came as Brevard rose five points on the Keetch-Byram drought index, meaning the threat of wildfires remains high and is increasing. The index, scored on a scale from 0 to 800, estimates ground dryness and fluctuates based on the amount of rain each day, or lack thereof. The county's average increased 570 because of the lack of rain, Florida Forest Service officials said.
No significant rain is expected Saturday in Brevard, the National Weather Serivce. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for Sunday and Monday, which could bring rain, but also lightning strikes that would exacerbate the dryness problem if the bolts hit areas where it doesn't precipitate.
Smoke from fires in Orange County could result in traffic shutdowns on thoroughfares between Brevard and Orange, officials advised. None of those roads were closed Friday, but motorists Saturday morning should just highways such as state roads 528 and 407 to see if the Florida Highway Patrol blocks traffic there.
Smoke from the Merritt Island fire was drifting toward Mims and Scottsmoor, which could cause traffic problems there, Stevenson said.
As of 11 a.m. Saturday, the fire was 4,738 acres ad 42 percent contained, fire officials said.