Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced Tuesday evening the Florida EOC has been boosted to level 1, its highest activation level, in response to the raging wildfires throughout the state.
The transition was an easy one, as the EOC was already gearing up for hurricane season.
Earlier Tuesday, the Florida Division of Forestry raised its fire-readiness level to the highest category of 5.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson has banned all residential outdoor burning. He says he hopes that will help stop more fires from starting. Many parts of the Bay area already have burn bans in place.
Florida is already under a fire-induced state of emergency, with high wind and tinder-dry conditions spawning some 240 blazes over 50,000 acres. So far no injuries have been reported, and only a small handful of houses have been destroyed or damaged.
Conditions cleared in the Bay area
late Tuesday afternoon after a day of haze.
I-75 North at Fruitville Road in Sarasota
reopened Tuesday afternoon after a couple of hours of being closed due to several spot fires
in the median. There were also several brushfires on the side of the highway.
The bulk of the state's brushfires are burning in central Florida and further to the north and the east, but haze and smoke can still be seen and smelled throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue responded to a brush fire estimated at 40 acres at Walter Hunter Road and Virgil Hall Road in the afternoon, but it is under control and no threat to homes or businesses. This is on phosphate property south of Lithia Pinecrest and west of Highway 39.
The Hillsborough County Health Department issued a public health advisory urging people with respiratory issues to avoid being outdoors for prolonged periods of time. Pinellas and Hernando issued advisories as well.
The Pinellas and Hillsborough school districts decided to keep students inside for recess, so they weren't exposed to the smoke.
The Pinellas County Emergency Communications Center got about 200 calls Tuesday morning related to the hazy conditions.
"They're thinking there neighbors house is on fire, or possibly the woods nearby their house is on fire," said 911 dispatcher Candy Grund.
Visibility was so poor that airports asked pilots to use instruments to land. Sky 9
pilot Captain Dave Millard was flying over an accident Tuesday morning, when he decided to return to the ground.
"Visibility was really down to less than two miles and [I] started to get a light-headedness," said Millard. "[My] nose was burning, so we decided to return and make a precautionary landing at Vandenburg."