March 8, 2011

Possible Florida Fire Relief Coming Thursday

Dozens of brush fires continue to burn this week across Florida, and the current pattern will offer little relief for the thousands of scorched acres for the next few days.

"The combination of breezy conditions at times, low humidity, dry brush and a lack of rainfall have and will continue to make conditions favorable for the spread of wildfires in much of the Sunshine State," said Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski."

Rain along the Florida Panhandle has eased the fire danger in that area over the weekend, but the rain did not reach the peninsula.

Notable fires in the state include the Iron Horse fire that burned nearly 17,000 acres in parts of Brevard and Volusia counties.

Although the fire was completely contained over the weekend, the remaining smoke has closed portions of Interstate 95 along the coastline into Monday. US Highway 1 is also threatened by smoke.

According to 13 News in Central Florida, the smoke, along with morning fog, created dangerous low visibility during early morning hours on Monday.

A five-vehicle crash, including two semis, occurred along a stretch of I-95, forcing the closure of a section of highway that has since reopened.

This is considered the dry season in Florida, but many cities across the Florida Peninsula have received less than a quarter of their normal rainfall over the past several weeks.

Orlando has recorded only 11 percent normal rainfall in February.

Average temperatures during the month were 3.5 degrees above normal and have been above normal every day since Feb. 16.

An easterly flow will bring higher dew points to the state starting Tuesday. A cold front sweeping across the southern United States will provide the possibility of showers and thunderstorms to the peninsula on Thursday.

Any amount of rain and higher humidity levels would assist firefighting efforts, perhaps allowing crews to gain an upper hand.

While brush burning to clear ranches of debris was still being allowed in a few areas, some communities have initiated burning bans as a safeguard.

People are asked to be extremely careful when cooking and using power equipment outdoors. Anything that can produce a spark is a potential hazard in these very dry conditions. Do not toss burning cigarettes out of your vehicle.

Do not park your vehicle in grassy areas, as the hot exhaust pipe from the vehicle can be enough to set the brush on fire.

By Gina Cherundolo, Staff Writer Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski contributed to the content of this story.

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