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Motorized Vehicles BEWARE of Wildfire Danger!

Motorized Vehicles BEWARE of Wildfire Danger!

As the grasses and vines with shallow roots green-up with the recent rainfall, the Florida Forest Service, Okeechobee District wants to remind residents to be vigilant with wildfire prevention. According to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, inadequate rainfall has depleted the moisture content in deeper rooted fuels, such as shrubs and trees. Larger diameter trees will take a longer time to regain moisture compared to shallow rooted grasses. In addition, most of Florida’s native plants have oils and resins that contribute to the susceptibility for burning. Moderate drought has created a fuel condition that supports fires of longer duration and more extreme fire behavior than would normally be expected.

The Florida Forest Service, Okeechobee District is asking for your help in reducing vehicle caused wildfire starts. Dead fuels, such as leaves, sticks and twigs, hold far less moisture and pulling off to the side of the road into dead vegetation can ignite a wildfire. The most common way is when the dead vegetation touches the vehicle exhaust system, including the catalytic converter which can reach up to 1,400 degrees. With the right weather conditions, all forms of motorized vehicles including cars, golf carts, motorcycles, airboats, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or side by side (UTVs) can be fire starters.

Tips to Reduce Vehicle Wildfires

A loose safety chain or muffler striking a rock or pavement will send a shower of sparks into dry vegetation. Ensure all parts of your vehicle are secure and not dragging.

Driving on an exposed wheel rim throws sparks. Poorly lubricated wheel bearings can overheat and ignite, and worn out brakes can drop hot material into the grass. Take the time to check your tire pressure and look for indicators of wear and tear on a tire.

Engine compartments can collect debris and ignite a spark. Worn-out catalytic converters can degrade and cast off extremely hot pieces of material. A faulty spark arrestor can shed hot metal. Take the time to maintain and clean exhaust systems and spark arresters.

Avoid driving your vehicle off the road 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 or airboat, the sparks can fly out through the exhaust system. The key here is to equip the vehicle with spark arresters.

Oil and transmission fluid are highly flammable and if you notice your vehicle leaking, then it’s time for a maintenance check.

The Florida Forest Service wants to remind you to have a fire extinguisher with you and know how to use it. Dead leaf litter/grass wildfires are very dangerous because they burn at an accelerated rate due to the fact that the fuel is so small and fine. If you do accidently ignite the grass on fire, call 911!

We can all make a difference in reducing human-caused fires during this dry season.

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

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

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