Lightning likely culprit in Hillsborough brush fire, lane closures to continue

The brush fire was still smoldering on Monday.
The brush fire continued to cause traffic delays on Monday.
The brush fire continued to cause traffic delays on Monday.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A lightning strike may be to blame for the 35-acre brush fire burning alongside Hillsborough Avenue in the Oldsmar-area that is causing horrible traffic problems.

As of Monday afternoon, firefighters have been on scene for nearly 24-hours, along with Florida Highway Patrol troopers monitoring lane closures in the well-traveled neighborhood. Video of the fire showed towering, big flames. 

Investigators with the Florida Forestry Service believe that lightning may have struck a tree in the densely wooded area of Hillsborough and Montague late Saturday night, then proceeded to smolder until it ignited.

By Sunday afternoon, tall flames raged in the dry brush, and thick smoke blanketed the landscape along Hillsborough Avenue, forcing FHP to close down the busy thoroughfare in both directions.

Patrick Keogh is a supervisor with the Florida Forest Service, which is now the lead agency handling the fire. “Hillsborough County is unique because it has urban development and wild lands. It makes it very unique for us and a difficult situation to fight this fire,” said Keogh.

The smoke continues to create haze and somewhat hazardous driving conditions. On Monday morning, only one lane was open in each direction of Hillsborough Avenue. On Monday afternoon, the sheriff’s office said two eastbound lanes of Hillsborough Avenue between Silvermill Dr. and Montague St. were open, along with all westbound lanes.

Investigators tell WFLA that road closures will continue for at least the next two days, as the brush fire continues to smolder, releasing smoke into the air and across the roadway.

“If you’re traveling Hillsborough Avenue, be cognizant that smoke may be an issue, and it will take longer to get somewhere,” Keogh said.

“It’s hot and buggy back in there. There’s a lot of dead material on the ground.”

The question is – with the lack of rain, was this area in danger? Keogh weighed in on the issue of unusually dry conditions. “If we had significant rainfall here, we would not have had this fire. This area obviously has not had any rain on in here,” Keogh added.

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