Hot, dry weekend puts areas at risk of wild fire

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ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB) -- Raging flames and thick smoke shut down part of I-95 overnight when a brush fire ignited Thursday afternoon. One lane headed north is still closed.

Firefighters are combating flames that left more than 400 acres of scorched land in its wake.

With temperatures reaching into the mid to high 90's, some parts of North Central Florida are at risk for wildfires.

As residents head out for the long weekend, it's important to be careful with any campfires or cooking areas.

Campfires, outdoor cooking fires, even fireworks are all things that Wildfire Mitigation Specialist at the Florida Forest Service, Ludie Bond said can cause wildfires.

"People just need to use extra caution that sparks can throw and fires can start very easily and spread very easily,” she said.

With the hot weather combined with the drier season we've been having, people with the Florida forest service say these are the ideal conditions for wildfires to start and spread.

"All those things that you wouldn't think that would normally cause a wildfire, right now that risk is extremely high because of the dry conditions, these hot conditions, things dry out much more quickly,” bond said.

as fires burn parts of Columbia and Duval counties, it's important to be vigilant and pay attention to your surroundings.

if a relaxing fire pit with s'mores is on your weekend list, rangers at Paynes Prairie want park goers to take safety steps.

"Make sure that it's not going outside of the ring, keep it contained within the ring. don't keep piling stuff up. flies should really not be more than about waist high. don't make your fire larger than what you an contain,” Assistant Park Manager at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Heather Goston said.

The Florida forest service issues all outdoor burn authorizations throughout the state, if residents to plan to burn, all restrictions are decided through the forest service.

"There are restrictions that are put on daily on outdoor burn authorizations and all of that is dependent on weather conditions for that day as well as fire occurrence and resource availability,” Bond said.

Wildfires are a very real threat here. Fires in 1998 and 2007 forced many residents to be evacuated.