The Latest: Tampa Fire Closes Nature Preserve, Highway

Wildfires Close Tampa Bay-Area Nature Preserve, Highways

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida officials are evacuating a nature preserve and shutting down stretches of highways in the Tampa Bay-area because of wildfires.

Pasco County Government spokesman Doug Tobin said all trails into Starkey Wilderness Park and all its campsites were closed Saturday due to a fire within the preserve.

Tobin said the county also requested voluntary evacuations of subdivisions east of the preserve near Land O’ Lakes and Lutz because the blaze was threatening to cross the Suncoast Parkway.

Florida Highway Patrol closed northbound Interstate-75 in Hillsborough County on Saturday afternoon. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokesman Corey Dierdorff said three brush fires had burned about 200 acres near the highway.

Dierdorff said Tampa Police and the sheriff’s office were using helicopters to drop water on the fires.

Photo: Brenda, viewer, Bay News 9

Strong Winds Leave Behind Fires, Damage In Tampa Bay Area

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (AP) — Officials say tropical storm-force winds blew down power lines and trees across the Tampa Bay-area.

Pasco County Government spokesman Doug Tobin said wind gusts up to 65 mph and sustained winds of 50 mph were reported early Saturday from Hudson to New Port Richey.

WTSP-TV reports ( ) the Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay was closed for a few hours because of the dangerously windy conditions.

Tobin said the strong winds forced authorities to limit fire rescue operations for employee safety reasons for a short time.

Damage reported to Pasco County’s emergency management department included small fires sparked by downed power lines, damage to six buildings and several roads blocked by fallen trees or light poles.