Firefighters mop up I-4 fire hotspots

Troopers reopen all lanes of Interstate 4

ORLANDO, Fla. - Firefighters mopped up hotspots Saturday from a brush fire that started suspiciously on Friday, shutting down I-4 near Walt Disney World, sending smoke across the roadway.

The fire, located near International Drive and I-4, was around 13 acres before it was contained. It was located near the Orange-Osceola county line, a few miles from Disney World and the Orlando tourist district.

Florida Highway Patrol reopened I-4 in both directions at around 5:30 p.m. Friday. Officials said they're investigating the fire as "suspicious."

"It was not a controlled burning that got out of hand," said Battalion Chief David Sullivan of Orange County Fire Rescue.

Fire officials said there weren't any lightning strikes in the area that could have ignited the fire.

Troopers said they will remain on their posts on I-4 in case the roadway needs to be shut down again.

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Operations at the Orlando-area attractions weren't affected by the blaze, but guests trying to enter and leave the parks encountered major traffic backups.

The Florida Highway Patrol shut down eastbound I-4 at Osceola Parkway, which is exit 65 and diverted traffic to State Road 417. Westbound I-4 was closed at State Road 535 and traffic was being diverted onto State Road 528.

Traffic congestion was also reported in Osceola County on State Road 417, as drivers try to navigate around the road closure. The FHP suspended tolls on State Road 528 and State Road 417.

According to the FHP website, there was zero visibility on I-4, forcing the shutdown.

FHP Sgt. Kim Montes said although the fire itself isn't the main concern anymore, the smoke is still a huge safety issue.

"We've got to look and see that we've got a clear path through this stretch and make sure drivers have a safe route to drive through," Montes said. "Daylight hours are not typically our problem with visibility."

Montes said the early morning hours and overnight are the main concerns for visibility and that the roads could be opened and closed again throughout the weekend as the weather changes.

"It all depends on the weather as far as the wind goes because, as you know, we've had very little rainfall," said Cliff Fraiser of the Division of Forestry.

Local 6 Chief Meteorologist Tom Sorrells says the wind was playing a major role in the blaze.

"The wind is not going to die down anytime soon," Sorrells said. "The smoke plume from the fire, which can be spotted on radar, covers at least 12 miles."

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Video from Local 6 news helicopter Sky 6 showed flames burning near the base of a cellphone tower, where firefighters were also spotted.  Flames could also be spotted along the medians butting up to I-4.

No injuries or damage to buildings were reported. FHP urges drivers to be cautious on the road in the smoky conditions.

"No one's been hurt, no one's been displaced, nothing's been damaged," Sullivan said.
Watch Local 6 for more on this story.

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