— The fire in the western United States threatens to destroy the country’s top destination for holiday shoppers, and residents are starting to prepare for the worst.
Residents of Miami and other major cities are beginning to prepare in the face of the fire’s threat to transform a tourist destination into a disaster zone.
The National Weather Service has issued flash flood watches for the Florida Keys, a swath of the state that includes Orlando.
The Florida Department of Health has activated its Disaster Assistance Program and ordered the evacuations of nearly 2 million residents.
“We are now seeing a lot of concern and anxiety,” said Mark O’Brien, a meteorologist with the National Weather Center in Gainesville, Florida.
The fire, which started in the night sky, has burned more than 250,000 acres, and the fire department has urged residents to stay indoors.
In Orlando, the National Park Service is warning visitors to avoid the area and instead to use the city’s “fire road” to get to the city center.
The area is also being watched closely for the possibility of an active tornado, according to the National Hurricane Center.
It could also lead to a tornado warning for parts of Central Florida.
Residents in southern Florida and the Miami area are also taking precautions.
“It’s a very intense fire,” said James G. Hagerty, chief executive of Florida-based Hagerstown, a major hospitality and tourism company.
“A lot of our employees are working at hotels, and they’re all going out to the fire area.
We have a lot more people that are in the evacuation zone now.”