JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A fire burning in a wooded area near Tillie Fowler Regional Park, across Roosevelt Boulevard from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, had burned 28 acres by Wednesday afternoon and was slowly spreading on higher ground but going out when it hit the swampy areas, a Florida Forest Service spokeswoman said.
FFS spokeswoman Annaleasa Winter said a state helicopter was used to make 51 drops of water, totaling 14,025 gallons, on what they are calling the Ortega River Fire on Wednesday and woodland firefighters with hand tools were cutting lines around the fire.
At midday Wednesday, the fire was about 30% contained and by Thursday afternoon it was reported as 50% contained.
"There are several hot spots and pockets of burning duff that firefighters are mopping up with hand tools and the limited amounts of water they can carry in. The fire will be smoking and smoldering for several more days with no rain predicted," the FFS tweeted Thursday afternoon.
The #OrtegaRiverFire is 50% contained. There are several hot spots and pockets of burning duff that firefighters are mopping up with hand tools & the limited amounts of water they can carry in. The fire will be smoking and smoldering for several more days with no rain predicted. pic.twitter.com/2FIYpBPaxS— FFS Jacksonville (@FFS_Jax) May 16, 2019
The fire is believed to have been started by a lightning strike.
Jacksonville Fire-Rescue said Tuesday night that no homes or structures were in danger. Due to the swampy terrain, crews have been unable to gain access.
The cause of the fire was unknown.
The city of Jacksonville announced on social media Wednesday morning that the state Forest Service had closed the Island Trail at Tillie Fowler Regional Park until further notice because of the fire.
#OrtegaRiverFire @FLForestService & JFRD crews are trying to access a fire of unknown size in a marshy area of Tillie Fowler Regional Park, across from NAS Jacksonville. No structures are threatened at this time but smoke may be an issue this evening - drivers use caution. pic.twitter.com/rHJnzmKfto— FFS Jacksonville (@FFS_Jax) May 14, 2019
Firefighters and the Florida Highway Patrol warned drivers in the area that they may experience issues with visibility and encouraged those encountering smoke to use their low beam headlights. News4Jax received reports of smoke across much of southwest Duval County and in Orange Park.
Weather Authority meteorologist Mark Collins said a 10 mph wind should push the smoke west Wednesday.