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Wildfires continue in central Florida

Several wildfires have been reported in Sarasota County  

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Firefighters in central Florida on Wednesday battled several wildfires, some that officials said were sparked intentionally.

Jim Harrell, Florida Forestry Division spokesman, blamed an arsonist for the largest fire, which has destroyed 16,500 acres since it began Tuesday along the Kissimmee River in northwest Okeechobee County .

"One structure was lost, along with two 500-gallon fuel tanks," Harrell said. An unknown number of hunting shacks were also destroyed, he said. The fire is 75 percent contained.

Arson is also suspected in a fire that has destroyed 665 acres in Osceola County. About 50 homes had to be evacuated Tuesday in the Bay Lakes subdivision in, Harrell said. None of the homes were damaged, but some outbuildings were destroyed by the fire, which is 70 percent contained.

Florida weather forecasts

Other ongoing fires include a Sarasota County blaze that has charred 2,000 acres of woodland. Firefighters are using tractors, helicopters and air tankers to douse the flames.

Firefighters have a 450-acre fire in Marion County 90 percent contained, said Harrell. At least 30 homes were evacuated when the fire began Monday.

In the northwest part of the state another fire has consumed 300 acres in Dixie County near Oldt Town, 45 miles west of Gainesville. Harrell said that fire began April 6 when an approved trash fire got out of control. No homes have been damaged and the fire is 80 percent contained.

Forecasters expect no significant rainfall for at least a week, said Harrell, who predicted that the weekend could bring more fast-moving fires.

"It's touch and go in the near future," he said, "but forecasters expect better chances of rain in the next six to eight weeks."

John Zarrella: Florida wildfire threat
February 9, 2001
A formula for Florida wildfires
February 9, 2001

Florida Division of Forestry
Florida's Forest Protection Bureau

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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