Fire and smoke closes I-4 near Disney

11:51 PM, May 25, 2012   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: Brush fire near Disney World
"Everything is truly tinderbox dry so a small fire turns into a big fire" - David Sullivan, Orange County Fire Rescue

 


 


Kissimmee, Florida- A small brush fire quickly grew out of control Friday, threatening traffic along Interstate-4 near Disney. The fire forced the Florida Highway Patrol to close the interstate in both directions for a time.

David Sullivan with Orange County Fire Rescue said the fire started out small with virtually no wind around 1:15 pm, but conditions changed suddenly.

"Everything is truly tinderbox dry so a small fire turns into a big fire literally within minutes," said Sullivan.

The fire flared up right along I-4 near International Drive and the Epcot exit in the heart of Orlando's theme parks and hotels. A command post was set up in a cow pasture across the street from the luxury Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center.

The fire got so close to I-4, at one point it jumped over several eastbound lanes and into the median before fire crews were finally able to get the flames under control. In all, around 25 acres were burned.

Even after it was contained, motorists complained of visibility issues around dusk.

"It was hard to breath and hard to see" said Jerry Hood, who was riding his motorcycle across I-4 from St. Petersburg. "It comes up on you right away ... I smelled it and by the time I realized what I was smelling I was already in it."

Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol will be monitoring visibility and smoke conditions overnight. They say visibility is good now, and they expect I-4 to remain open at least until morning when fog could force the interstate's closure again.

If you plan travel along I-4 through Kissimmee in the morning, troopers suggest calling 511 for updates. 10 News will have weather information and traffic alerts Saturday morning beginning at 6am.

Earlier Report:

ORLANDO, Florida (AP) - Smoke from a wildfire has closed a section of Orlando's main highway in the city's tourist district.

A section of Interstate 4 was closed in both directions Friday because of billowing smoke that cut down visibility on Orlando's main artery.

The closure was from U.S. 192 to State Road 535 at the start of a busy Memorial Day weekend.

The fire was nearby Walt Disney World and the busy hotel-and-attractions district on International Drive.

No injuries or damage to buildings were reported.

Beau Zimmer, 10 News

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