Wildfire Concerns Rise
As cooler, drier air and freezing temperatures push through our area, the Florida Forest Service is concerned about an increasing frequency of wildfire starts. Dry season started with the driest November on record followed by one of the warmest Decembers on record.
“Most native vegetation in Florida is very sensitive to cooler weather and becomes additional fuel for a wildfire,” states, Joe deBree, Forest Area Supervisor with the Florida Forest Service. “Once the weather gets colder, the deciduous plants go into their dormant state and lose their leaves, adding to the dead leaf litter already on the forest floor.”
“Wildfires can easily occur this time of year,” deBree explains. “Two of the most common wildfire causes include unauthorized debris burning and equipment use.” Escaped debris burning is one of the leading causes of wildfires in Florida. Debris burning setbacks and restrictions are in place to prevent accidents. Your local Florida Forest Service office will help you understand Florida’s burn laws before you strike the match.
There are several ways equipment use can potentially ignite the dry grass and weeds. The most common way is when the grass touches the vehicle exhaust system, for example, the catalytic converter which can reach up to 1,400 degrees. In order to mitigate this risk, try not to drive your vehicle off the road or on country roads when it's hot and dry because that will increase your chances of a fire starting from a vehicle. If you drive an off-road vehicle, such as an ATV/UTV and airboat, the sparks can fly out through the exhaust system. The key here is to equip the vehicle with spark arresters.
The Florida Forest Service wants to remind you to have a fire extinguisher with you and know how to use it when using equipment. Wildfires in grass are very dangerous because they burn at an accelerated rate since the fuel is so small and fine. If you do accidently ignite a wildfire, call 911!
The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests, provides management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests, while protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FloridaForestService.com.
For questions about burn authorizations and wildfire prevention, please contact your local Florida Forest Service:
Martin County (772) 221-4045; Saint Lucie County (772) 468-3915; Indian River County (772) 778-5085;
Glades County (863) 674-4000; Highlands County (863) 655-6407; Okeechobee County (863) 467-3221