May 12, 2009

Wildfire Activity Increasing

TALLAHASSEE- Exceedingly dry conditions in Central and South Florida are responsible for increased wildfire activity, and these conditions are expected to intensify in the coming days and weeks, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson said today.

Below-average rainfall in the peninsular part of the state, coupled with freezes earlier this year, has left Florida's vegetation ripe for wildfires. Low relative humidity and gusty winds that the region has been experiencing provide ideal conditions for wildfires to start easily, intensify quickly, and move rapidly. Over the Mother's Day weekend, 63 new wildfires broke out, burning more than 2,500 acres.

"Many of our counties have significant areas with readings at the highest levels of the drought index," Bronson said. "The quick response of our firefighters has kept the number of acres lower than would be expected during such dry conditions."

Since January 1, Florida has had more than 2,000 wildfires that have burned almost 56,000 acres. About 98 percent of them were caused by humans and therefore are preventable if residents use caution, common sense and follow the law.

"Prevention continues to be the key," Bronson said. "It is only because of the fire prevention efforts of our Division of Forestry personnel and local fire departments that we have not had more wildfires."

Residents and visitors alike are being asked to refrain from tossing lighted cigarettes out of car windows, avoid any unnecessary outdoor burning, use caution in using power tools and check with officials to see if it is a dangerous burning day or if there is a local burn ban in effect.

For other wildfire prevention actions you can take and information about recommendations you can follow to increase the probability that your home and community can survive a wildfire disaster, visit or contact your local Florida Division of Forestry field office.

Click on these links to watch two television public service announcements about wildfire prevention:

Gerry J. LaCavera
(850) 921-3733

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