UPDATE: Polk wildfire now 50 percent contained

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Friday toured the damage caused by a huge wildfire in Polk County.

The fire broke out on Wednesday and as of Friday afternoon has burned 5,000 acres in the River Ranch Hunt Club and Indian Lake Estates area. Fire officials say the blaze is 50 percent contained.

Some firefighters say the brush fire is the worst they’ve seen. This is the third day that crews have worked around the clock to fight this wildfire and crews from other counties have been called in to help. So far, nine mobile homes have burned, two single-family homes are ruined, several cars have caught fire and one dog has died.

Putnam said Friday that he expects the fire to continue to spread because of low humidity. Forecasts predict hotter and drier conditions than normal throughout the state in the coming months, and wildfires are anticipated to increase throughout the state due to these conditions.

Putnam warned residents to prepare and make sure the area around their homes is clear of brush and other items that could catch fire. “Have what we call a defensible zone, plenty of area between you and the woods. No palmetto up to your house. Have hoses and sprinklers ready ,” he said.

Putnam compared the Polk County brush fire to the wildfires that caused devastating damage in 1998 and even postponed the Daytona 500.

There are more than 50 active wildfires currently burning throughout Florida. Since January, the Florida Forest Service and its partners have responded to more than 466 wildfires that burned more than 9,400.

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