Florida Prepares for Potentially Severe Wildfire Season

October 8, 2010

Dry conditions in at least some parts of the state coupled with a long-range forecast calling for a significant drying cycle threaten a potentially severe wildfire season, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson said today.

The culprits are a lack of any major tropical storm activity so far this season and the existence of La Nina conditions, which are expected to continue until at least early next year.

Meteorologists define La Nina conditions as abnormally cold sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, which generally trigger severe wildfire activity in Florida. In fact, five of Florida’s most active wildfire years have occurred during or immediately after a period when the Pacific Ocean had unusually cold sea temperatures.

“This weather cycle calls for a warmer and drier winter here in Florida, and when you combine that with the lack of any real rainfall associated with tropical systems so far this season, we have to expect a tough wildfire season ahead,” Bronson said.

During the recently completed fiscal year, Bronson’s Division of Forestry reported a record volume of prescribed or controlled burning both in State Forests and on private land — an action that has reduced the amount of flammable fuels in forests and on timber lands should major wildfires occur.

But citizens, too, can do their part to protect themselves and their property, Bronson said. “Homeowners should make every effort to assure that their homes are protected against wildfires, even if fire services cannot reach them in time,” Bronson said.

He said the three most important tips to protect homes from wildfires are:

  • Clean roofs and gutters to eliminate debris, including leaves, twigs, pine needles and palm fronds.
  • Keep the area directly next to the home free of anything that can easily catch fire, including flammable plants. They can be replaced with less flammable varieties.
  • Maintain and keep the landscape within 30 foot of a home sufficiently watered to deter flames from approaching the home if a fire occurs.

Floridians can remain aware of the current wildfire danger in their areas by regularly checking the Fire Danger Index.

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