They call it ‘Florida fog’ but it’s really dense, grey-black smoke that comes with wildfires sweeping through the scrub and brush.

Florida is known as the Sunshine State for good reason: The state gets more sunshine than just about anywhere else in the nation. Most days, even those with a little rain in the morning, turn out to be dry and clear. Although Florida is surrounded on three sides by water the state is prone to extended dry periods; drought is common and wildfires sweep across the state every year.

These wildfires often grow in areas which are nearly inaccessible to firefighters because of the density of the undergrowth. Many times firefighters allow the fires to burn themselves out, rather than trying to fight them. This creates a hazard not only for anyone who lives in the area but also for the abundance of drivers on the highways which crisscross the state. These fires produce an abundance of smoke which can quickly reduce visibility to near zero. The Florida Highway Patrol does its best to monitor the situations and often closes highways which are affected by this smoke, but drivers would do well to use their best judgement, even if the road is open.

This past weekend a stretch of Interstate 75 in northern Florida was afflicted by dense smoke from a nearby fire. Traffic had been stopped due to the poor visibility but some drivers failed to notice the stopped cars and a chain reaction collision occurred. In all, nine people were killed and more than a dozen were severely injured in the crashes which reduced some vehicles to mangled wrecks, compressed between traffic trailers and other vehicles.

Florida Highway Patrol officers are still trying to determine exactly what caused the collisions, though the severely limited visibility seemed to be at least indirectly responsible, forcing the patrol to issue new warnings to all drivers in the state to be on the lookout for wildfires and drive with caution any time visibility is limited.