Area's cold weather creating worries of more brush fires

Published: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 10, 2003 at 11:12 p.m.
The recent freezes and high winds have led to six brush fires in Alachua County in the past three days, and firefighters are asking the public to be careful when they burn.
The brush fires have been small, but officials are worried they could get out of hand.
"The largest was two acres, but the thing is, conditions are just right," said Justin Lagotic of Alachua County Fire Rescue. "Even though this isn't the season you'd think is the brush fire season, there's still a very serious threat."
Recent freezes have killed off grass and some other vegetation. The dead vegetation can be fuel for a fire, Lagotic said.
"If a brush fire starts, it can run very quickly through it and get to the heavy brush," he said.
High winds also contribute to fire danger. A cold front coming through North Central Florida today is expected to bring both wind and freezing temperatures, Lagotic said.
A low temperature of 32 degrees is expected tonight, with high temperatures in the 50s today and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
There is a chance of a cold rain Sunday night, with temperatures in the high 30s.
It's been a chilly winter so far, according to temperature records.
Between Dec. 1 and Jan. 31, Gainesville has eight freezing nights on average, said Phil Peterson, meteorologist at the National Weather Service. So far, Gainesville has had 10 freezing nights and there are still three weeks of January to go.
In December, there were 13 nights in the 30s, eight in the 40s and 10 in the 50s.
With the cooler weather, fire officials recommend people watch their fires carefully and have a hose and a shovel nearby.
"It just takes one ember to get out of the fire to cause a large brush fire to erupt," Lagotic said.
Fires must be kept in a container or a pit covered by a metal grill or mesh with 10 feet of bare ground on all sides. They must also be kept 100 feet away from buildings, 50 feet from roads and 25 feet from woods or brush.

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