Smoke Damages Air Quality, Prison Evacuated as Wildfires Scorch Florida Everglades

South Florida's smoky skies cleared slightly Tuesday despite a growing wildfire in Everglades National Park, but officials still advised children, the elderly and people with breathing problems to stay indoors.

A dense smoke advisory in effect for 17 hours was canceled Tuesday morning after wind conditions improved visibility for Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. The smoke was still expected to cause moderate to "unhealthy" air quality conditions, Miami-Dade environmental officials said.

"Smoke is still around and will be around South Florida for the next few days, but as far as visibility it was canceled," said Andrew Tingler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. A dense smoke advisory alerts the public to low visibility that presents a hazard, mainly to drivers.

The fire west of the Miami area was about 30 percent contained. Officials hoped the rise in humidity would slow its spread.

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"Firefighters are in a much better position this morning because it only spread somewhat on Monday," said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Nina Barrow. Park visitor centers are still open except for one that has been closed for years and is the only one close to the fire.

A state prison and federal detention center near the Everglades were evacuated Monday afternoon as the wildfire burned uncomfortably close to the facilities. About 2,000 people from the Everglades Correctional Institution and the Krome Detention Center were relocated to other facilities around the state.

The blaze also was burning in the only known habitat for the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow. Water flow was increased to the area, and state officials said the birds appeared to be "in good shape."

In all, firefighters were battling dozens of blazes from Brevard County on the Atlantic coast south to Miami-Dade County that have burned more than 78,000 acres, said Gerry LaCavera, a wildfire spokesman with the state Division of Forestry.

Wildfires have also scorched another 25,000 acres of Lake Okeechobee's drought-exposed bottom.