NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. – Smoldering brush fires kept about 1,000 people from their homes early Monday, and the heavy smoke shut down parts of Interstate 95 between Daytona Beach and the Cape Canaveral area.
At least one home was destroyed and about 1,000 acres scorched by the fires that began Friday and flared up through the weekend, officials said.
"Our problem is no rain, dry conditions and strong winds," said Greg Dunn, a spokesman for the Division of Forestry.
Smoke from the fires blended with fog early Monday and blanketed I-95 in Brevard County, forcing the shut down of a 20-mile stretch of highway. Another 12 miles had already been shut down because of the smoke. Authorities blamed the low visibility for a five-vehicle crash that killed two people Sunday.
The Florida Highway Patrol closed I-95 in Brevard County from Fiske Boulevard to State Road 50 from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. beginning Monday. The BeachLine, State Road 528, was also closed from State Road 520 to U.S. 1 during the same hours.
Both roads have been shut down intermittently because brush fires in the area are burning close to the highways. They will be closed during morning hours until there are no more visibility issues, FHP spokeswoman Kim Miller said.
Drivers should use an alternate route and expect delays because the fires could force closures at any time, she said.
"The hint to motorists is don't use I-95 in the next couple of days if you don't have to. We want motorists to avoid 95 from Indian River County up to Jacksonville," Miller said.
The flames were right behind Rita McSweeney's home when she fled her golf course community.
"I could see it through the woods," McSweeney told The Daytona Beach News-Journal. "The sky was black, black, black, black, and then it would turn fire engine red. It felt like I could reach out and touch the fire."
More than 2,200 wildfires have burned over 44,000 acres in Florida since Jan. 1, according to the state Division of Forestry.