Wildfire Breaks Out
Smoke could be seen spewing from tires along the racetracks and also in the air over the Gainesville Raceway. Racers, however, said they felt the drag strip presented more danger than the wildfire across the street.
"As I was coming in from Gainesville, I saw the smoke, so I got out and looked around," Kenny Milledge of Reality Racing recalled. "The smoke was starting to build, and I was concerned about it coming across, but it didn't make the jump across the road because of the quick response of the fire department."
D.O.F. Foresters were the first to spot the smoke around 6 p.m. while driving home. They called in the report and were quickly joined by firefighters from Alachua County, Waldo, Melrose and La Crosse.
"We're extremely fortunate in North Central Florida that on any brush fires, we're very heavy with initial attack with all the responding agencies," D.O.F.'s Ludie Ehlers said.
Crews contained the fire within an hour and 15 minutes confining it to the Rayoneer Timber property to the west of County Road 225 and an access road north of the raceway. Alachua County Sheriff's Deputies closed a portion of the road, but not due to the fire but the smoke and its effect on visibility.
"Morning commuters should definitely choose an alternate route getting in and out of Gainesville," Ehlers warned. "You should leave home a few moments early to make sure you get to work safely."
Firefighters will continue to monitor the area for spot fires through Thursday. They said the winds from the Southwest were a big factor in containing the fire.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Foresters said one possibility is lighting, which could have struck several days ago and festered underground until starting the fire.
Millage, however, said a little smoke was not enough to ruin a night of racing.
"It really wasn't a factor as far as being worried about it coming over here," he said. "We were comfortable enough."
By Ted Latiak, WCJB TV20 News.
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