OSTEEN, Fla. — Firefighters across central and southern Florida are battling wildfires that have temporarily shut down highways and caused some residents to be evacuated.

More than 900 acres (360 hectares) had burned near Osteen in Volusia County as of early Sunday, although the Florida Forest Service said the fire is now 90% contained.

The fire broke out Saturday and may have been sparked by the remains of an earlier wildfire, Volusia County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Scott Smoak told WESH-TV.

Most of central and southern Florida are currently experiencing drought conditions, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center, with the driest conditions concentrated around Sarasota and Punta Gorda. Outdoor burning of yard debris is currently banned by 13 central and southwest Florida counties, according to the Florida Forest Service.

“We’re extremely dry, especially in this part of the county. Any bit of people burning outdoors, any type of, you know, vehicles that creates sparks, those are our main concerns,” Smoak said.

Weather forecasters warned that conditions for spreading fires remain favorable Sunday, particularly along the middle of Florida’s Atlantic coast, where gusty winds are likely.

So far this year more than 1,100 wildfires have been reported in Florida, burning more than 24,000 acres (9,800 hectares), the state forest service reports.

A smaller fire Saturday in North Port briefly forced the closure of the northbound lanes of Interstate 75, with some residents being evacuated. The fire was 80% contained late Saturday, with firefighters saying Sunday they worked through the night and were continuing to douse hotspots.

In Martin County, smoke lingered Sunday from a fire that was sparked Friday from the remains of a previous fire. A helicopter was dropping water on the fire, WPTV-TV reported, although the blaze was 90% contained.

Derek Craver told WPEC-TV that he had to evacuate when the fire burned dangerously close to his house.

“We were sitting in the house and the smoke started getting close. It looked thick. I looked out there and saw flames,” Craver said. “It’s kind of hectic, a little bit of panic especially when they tell you to leave.”

No houses were damaged and residents were allowed to return.



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