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13,000-Acre Wildfire Burns in Fla.

April 12, 2000

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) _ A wildfire that had destroyed three homes and charred 13,000 acres of brush and grass stalled Wednesday between Naples and Big Cypress Swamp

Fire crews initially feared ``very aggressive fire behavior″ but by mid-afternoon said the fire had not advanced at all during the day.

Wind was expected to pick up later but was forecast to push flames back into areas that already had burned.

``We’re just kind of sitting on pins and needles waiting to see what’s going to happen,″ said Robert Heed, manager of Kountree Kampinn RV Resort, which sits about 2 1/2 miles from the edge of the burned area.

The blaze had a history of erratic behavior. Swiftly moving flames caught three firefighters’ vehicles on Monday, although their operators escaped.

``It can change direction on a minute’s notice,″ said state fire spokesman Gerry LaCavera.

The area was subdivided in the heyday of Florida swampland sales, leaving miles of paved roads but few houses. Hunters, horseback riders and swamp buggy riders often use the area.

An elementary school was closed Wednesday in the area about 10 miles east of Naples, or 130 miles south of Tampa. Residents of 50 homes within a mile of the fire were urged to evacuate Tuesday.

The fire started Sunday in the Picayune Strand State Forest, between Naples and the Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park. It was blamed on humans but the cause had not been determined.

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On the Net:

Florida’s emergency department: http://www.dca.state.fl.us/bpr/EMTOOLS/wildfire/wildfire.htm

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