Brush fire smoke plagues Central Florida roadways

Dry conditions persist in Orlando area

CHRISTMAS, Fla. – Smoke from brush fires continued to plague Central Florida on Tuesday, forcing officials to close roadways for the second straight day.

The Florida Highway Patrol shut down part of State Road 50 early Tuesday because of smoke from a nearby brush fire, one of more than 100 burning across the state. The closure was between St. Nichols Street and Plantation Drive in east Orange County. The same stretch of the road was closed for several hours on Monday.

S.R. 50 reopened around 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Meanwhile, troopers closed State Road 528 near the Orange-Brevard county line around 7:20 a.m. Tuesday. S.R. 528 was closed eastbound at State Road 520 and westbound at Interstate 95. It reopened around 9:20 a.m. Tuesday.

The Highway Patrol said all roads reopened around 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.

"It's like a wall of smoke. You can't see anything and you slow down to almost zero. The guy behind you? He's not so quick to react," FHP Lt. Channing Taylor said on Monday. "That's when we start getting these chain-reaction collisions. It's very dangerous. People can get seriously hurt. People can get killed and they have before. 

"I didn't know it was this bad to the point where it's stopping traffic and hindering people from going to work," a driver said. "But I'm glad that they're doing something to make it safe for all of us. So that's what's most important."

"Anytime the conditions are unfavorable, we will close the road," Taylor said. " Once they improve to where it's safe to drive, we will open it back up."

Troopers said the issue very likely will be ongoing.

"We're going to be consistently out here evaluating the conditions and making sure that the roads are safe," Taylor said.

The FHP said it is also closely watching a stretch of State Road 417 near State Road 535 because of smoke from another fire, but the road is currently open. 

Forestry officials said Monday there are more than 100 wildfires burning across Florida, scorching nearly 24,000 acres of land.

Stay with News 6 and for updates on this developing story.

About the Authors:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.