Wind-driven brush fires forced about 1,300 people from their homes in northeastern Florida as the Southeast sweltered in record heat under smoky skies.
Homes were spared Tuesday, a day after a dozen homes near St. Augustine burned. But the smoke was so bad that officials temporarily closed Interstates 10 and 95 out-side Jacksonville.Half the town of Waldo, near Gainesville, was evacuated when the wind shifted and the fire came within five miles of town. The 500 or so residents were allowed to return early Wednesday after 2,500 acres burned.
About 200 residents of Penney Farms, some 40 miles south of Jacksonville, and a nearby housing development were ordered out of their homes.
The Navy also cleared about 600 people from a Cecil Field Naval Air Station housing unit west of Jacksonville as a fire came within a half-mile of the complex. No structures on the FA-18 jet base were in danger, Navy spokesman Chuck Un-der-wood said.
The fire danger came as temperatures climbed to record levels for another day. Tampa tied a record at 95, Melbourne and Orlando hit 98 and Daytona Beach reached 100.
The city of Jacksonville banned all lawn and landscape watering because of there was not enough water pressure for fire fighting, a spokeswoman for Mayor John De-la-ney said.
Blazes have consumed nearly 30,000 acres in 23 Florida counties since Memorial Day. The fires ranged from Jacksonville to Eglin Air Force Base near Pensacola and as far south as Fort Myers in southwest Florida.
Dry conditions also fed forest fires in southeast Georgia, where 3,000 acres burned Tuesday.