Elevated wildfire threat is issued

Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 11:31 p.m.
An elevated wildfire threat was issued Wednesday for Florida forests damaged by the 2004 hurricanes.
The additional debris from the storms will make wildfires more difficult to control and more dangerous for firefighters, said Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson.
The absence of rainfall combined with recent freezing temperatures, dry vegetation and lingering hurricane debris increases the risk of wildfires, especially if residents do not use caution and follow government guidelines when conducting controlled burns.
"From Naples to Pensacola, many once-scenic stands of trees are now tangled masses of trunks and limbs," Bronson said in a news release.
As seen with a recent fire in High Springs where a spark from a lawn mower engine caused a fire that destroyed 30 acres of grass, wildfire season has begun.
"We're not under a ban, but if you don't need to do it, don't," said Mark Hughes, spokesman for Alachua County Fire Rescue.
Rainfall helps make conditions safer and about two-tenths of an inch are needed to add enough moisture to make conditions safer, said Don West, center manager for the local district of the Florida Division of Forestry.
To conduct a safe burn, Hughes advises people to use a metal bin, never leave a fire unattended and always have a hose or fire extinguisher ready just in case.
"If it's out of control, call 911 immediately," Hughes said.
Guidelines from the Division of Forestry allow outdoor burning between 9 a.m. and one hour before sunset.
In Alachua and Marion counties, fires should be kept at least 50 feet from any residence, 300 feet from any occupied building, 100 feet from a public road and 25 feet from any woodlands. In Levy, Gilchrist and Putnam counties, fires can be only as close as 100 feet from occupied buildings.
Residents do not need permits to burn yard debris and trash unless a county places a burn ban, which happened last year, West said. Burns done for agriculture, forestry and land-clearing require permits from the Division of Forestry.
Besides trash burning that gets out of control, wildfires can start from electrical fences, fireworks, lightning strikes and sparks from engines of recreational vehicles.
"Sadly, it could be malicious and we have seen that in the past," Hughes said.
Florida had 3,330 wildfires in 2004, of which 74 percent were caused by people.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top