250% more wildfires this year than in first 3 months of 2016
April 9-15, 2017 is Florida Wildfire Awareness Week. Wildfires in Florida usually start and spread quickly, leaving little time to prepare for a possible evacuation.
Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency this morning as 107 wildfires burn across the state. The situation will likely get worse before it gets better, since the state has yet to get into the lightning-filled warmer months.
"Much of Central and South Florida are approaching drought-like conditions, and the chances for wildfires are continuing to increase with hotter temperatures and low rainfall," Scott said. "This may only get worse as we enter the hotter summer months, and it is crucial that we take every action right now to be prepared."
"There is no corner of the state that is not facing severe wildfire conditions," Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said. “We've burned almost 70,000 acres so far this year. We've lost almost 30 homes. So this is clearly a significant wildfire season.”
Wildfires in Florida have already burned 250 percent more terrain in the first three months of 2017 than during the same period last year.
“Wildfires are burning more than 20,000 acres in Florida right now, and we haven't seen this active of a season since 2011. From St. George Island in the Panhandle to a wildfire just north of one of the world's most famous tourist attractions in Orlando, we're seeing that every area of our state is susceptible to wildfire,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H.
Putnam. “I thank Governor Scott for signing this executive order, which will ensure we have every resource available to us to combat these wildfires to protect life, property and wildlife. May God bless our brave firefighters who are working tirelessly to protect us.”
“Wildfire Awareness Week is an important reminder that all Floridians and visitors play a critical role in helping to prevent wildfires,” said Florida State Forester Jim Karels. “With such an active wildfire season and much of Florida experiencing significant drought conditions, residents and visitors should take every precaution to help prevent wildfire.”
"We've got a ways to go with no end in sight," Florida State Forester Jim Karels said. “I'm talking to the National Guard as we speak and we'll be bringing up some of their aviation helicopters. That'll help us spread our helicopters around and have better response across the state,” Karels said. “If it stays dry in the rest of April and May, we've got some major problems coming.”
Seven counties have implemented burn bans. Karels said, "About 90% of fires have been caused by humans, either intentionally or from carelessness. Prevention means once again trying to educate people not to burn trash, toss cigarettes into vegetation or park vehicles on dry grass."
“Please comply with the burn bans, burn restrictions. Don’t think that you're going to be the exception. It only takes one spark to put the woods on fire and put homes and lives at risk,” Putnam said.
"We know the lightning is coming. Florida is the lightning capital of the world. Come April, come May, June and July lightning is going to hit this state hard as it always does every year. And the drought really intensifies that, because then you start to see a lot of these fires," Karels said. "Our job is to prevent those human-caused fires, so that we're prepared for the lightning. So that we're not tied up with so many human-caused fires."
"Don't think you're the one who can burn trash and get away with it," Putnam said."It just takes one spark to get caught by the wind to set a neighbor's property on fire."
NOTE: It is illegal to burn household garbage including paper products, treated lumber, plastics, rubber materials, tires, pesticide, paint and aerosol containers.
Home Fire Survival Tips:
-Keep mulch and pine needles away from your home, fence and deck;
-Keep roof and gutter free of pine needles;
-Keep flammables away from your home;
-Store fire wood at least 30 feet from your home;
-Remove dead vegetation and debris from under the deck and within 10 feet of your home; and
-Make wildfire preparedness a family project.
Outdoor Burning Tips
-Clear an area down to bare soil around your pile to prevent the fire from spreading.
-Cover a non-combustible container with wire mesh to keep sparks from flying out and starting new fires.
-Check with your local city and county officials to find out if there are any restrictions in your area.
-25 feet from forests
-50 feet from paved public roads
-25 feet from your house
-150 feet from other occupied buildings