March 8 (UPI) -- Authorities issued mandatory evacuations and closed part of Interstate 75 as a wildfire burned more than 6,000 acres in Florida's Collier County.
"Collier County continues to monitor the Lee Williams wildfire burning east of Collier Boulevard [County Road 951]," the local government said in a statement Tuesday night. "The fire is currently estimated at covering 6,000 acres and is 30 percent contained at this time."
Officials said the Florida Forest Service ordered mandatory evacuations for the Naples Club RV Resort, the Panther's Walk RV Resort, the entire Forest Glen community, the Aventine at Naples Apartments, and horse stables in and along Newman Drive.
Florida Highway Patrol shut down I-75 between mile marker 80 and mile marker 105, officials said until visibility improves.
Meanwhile, about 6 million people in three Midwestern states live in areas forecasters said are ripe for wildfires to spark. That forecast came a day after a series of fires stretching from the Texas panhandle north to Missouri scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.
The fires were blamed for six deaths earlier this week.
While weather conditions improved Wednesday, several wildfires in the drought-stricken prairie were still not contained, officials said.
The national Storm Prediction Center said hot, dry conditions in a wide swath of the Midwest including central Oklahoma, southeast Kansas and western Missouri warranted a critical threat for wildfires, the second-highest category forecasters use. Included in that area are the cities of Tulsa, Okla., Oklahoma City, Wichita and Kansas City. Parts of 11 states are under an elevated risk for wildfires, forecasters said.
In addition to the human toll the wildfires took, ranchers and farmers suffered potentially staggering losses when livestock herds were killed and crops burned. Ranchers in Texas and Oklahoma were left with the gruesome task Wednesday of putting down tens of thousands of badly burned cattle and other animals.
One rancher told The Wichita Eagle the number of cattle killed could stretch into the millions once officials are more able to survey the damage.
Firefighters saw some relief Wednesday as high winds abated and cooler, moist air from a low pressure system across the South pushed northward, helping tamp down several fires in Texas and Oklahoma.
However, the outlook for Thursday and Friday includes less-than-optimal firefighting conditions, with temperatures and windspeed expected to increase.