Thick smoke drifted into counties bordering Ocala National Forest Tuesday evening. People in Putnam and St. Johns counties reported smoke and ash in the late afternoon as winds shifted. National Forest Service officials said it was a 1,500 acre wildfire in the area of East National Forest Road 66 and National Forest Road 77. The area was described as inaccessible and no houses were in danger. A burn out operation is being considered. Putnam firefighters are assisting the U.S. Forest Service. A lightning strike caused the fire, say authorities. Adding to the smoke issue was a 150 acre controlled burn going on at Dunn’s Creek State Park in Putnam Tuesday.
With the Fourth of July coming on Thursday many people are taking a long weekend. Government offices and the post office are closed for the Fourth as well as most. City of Palatka offices and services will remain closed through Friday as will the county and city governments in Flagler County. St. Johns County, St. Augustine and Putnam County government will be back at work Friday.
A fireworks display in Palm Coast at Center Park at Town Center tonight will kick off pyrotechnical displays throughout the area. Entertainment, vendors and a program begin at 6 p.m. with the fireworks at 9 p.m. At Flagler Beach Thursdy a 5K run is at 7 a.m., parade at 10 a.m. and fireworks over the Atlantic at 9 p.m. St. Augustine offers a band concert in the Plaza de la Constitucion from 6-8 p.m. and Fireworks Over the Matanzas at 9:30 p.m. Traffic will be heavy and the Bridge of Lions is closed to maritime traffic from 7 to 11 p.m. In Putnam County Interlachen shows what small town is all about with their monster Fourth celebration that includes a parade at 10 a.m. and a day of events including baking contests, baby races, live music and vendors. Fireworks close out the festival. In Palatka bands, entertainment and food will be available at the Palatka riverfront beginning at 5 p.m. Fireworks cap off the evening. At First Presbyterian Church on the river there’s a free patriotic concert at 7 p.m. followed by an ice cream social that’s open to the public.
Expect a busy weekend at beaches in Flagler and St. Johns counties. Large crowds are expected. Flagler is urging people to be careful crossing over dunes onto the beach since many public access walkovers were wiped out by hurricanes and are not back in place. St. Johns officials remind people passes are required for vehicle access to the beach and designated driving lanes will be in place. Soft sand conditions are likely. Vilano Beach is closed to vehicles and Porpoise Point will be closed to traffic after 7:30 p.m.
On Tuesday First Coast YMCA held a ribbon cutting and opened the doors to people at a new location at World Golf Village. The new YMCA is at Flagler Health Plus Village in the Murabella community. New equipment, a cycle studio, free weights, a teen center and Silver Sneakers programs are available.
High school students in Putnam County can get a chance to do some dancing Monday, July 8. Kenzie Johnson, who choreographs shows put on by the Palatka High School Theater program directed by Jim Pignato, holds a dance workshop from 9 a.m. to noon at the auditorium at C.L. Overturf Jr. Center. This isn’t a final audition for upcoming productions but a chance to see what students are capable of doing. New dancers are encouraged to come out.
A St. Johns County Sheriff’s Deputy and the tortoise he pulled over are featured in the July 15 People magazine. A photo of Deputy Leonard Fontenot and the tortoise went viral after being featured on Facebook. It was noted the deputy “conducted a traffic stop for a Florida native for impeding traffic flow.” You can see a photo of Fontenot and the tortoise at staypluggedinto.com. By the way it’s the fourth tortoise the deputy has rescued in six weeks.