By Tamas Mondovics
The risk of outdoor fire took center stage last month as Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam H. Putnam, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Florida Forest Service teamed up last month to caution Floridians while enjoying time with friends and family this holiday season.
In a recent press release, Putnam drew attention to the topic, mentioning that over the summer months, Florida experienced above-normal amounts of precipitation, but that a recent decline in rainfall has increased drought conditions.
“Winter holidays provide a great opportunity for Floridians to enjoy time with friends and family outdoors,” Putnam said. “Whether it’s a bonfire or yard work, it is our responsibility to be good stewards as we recreate and be careful with fire outdoors.”
What is not new to Floridians, of course, is the fact that in the fall and winter months, cold fronts move through the state and dry out vegetation, which result in the underbrush to become extremely vulnerable to wildfire.
Florida Forest Service director, Jim Karels, confirmed that colder and freezing temperatures dry out the grasses and small brush making them more likely to catch on fire and that relative humidity—below 35 percent—combined with a lack of rainfall for two weeks or longer and strong dry winds are all components that create extreme fire danger.
“Any fire that starts during these weather conditions could get out of control and spread quickly,” Karels said.
The department’s Florida Forest Service is urging residents to exercise caution with any type of outdoor burning given current weather conditions and heed these outdoor burning tips:
• Never leave any fire unattended.
• Clear area down to bare soil around campfires and warming fires.
• Do not burn yard waste during dry, windy conditions.
• Report any suspicious fire to 911.
The fire safety tips also mentioned that residents can mitigate risk of wildfire by clearing leaves and pine needles from the roof and gutters, removing dead vegetation within 30 feet of the home and trimming trees and limbs within 15 feet of the chimney.
The Florida Forest Service manages over one million acres of public forest land on 35 state forests and protects over 26 million acres of private homes, lands and natural resources from wildfire.
For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit. http://www.FreshFromFlorida.com
For more ways to help protect a home against wildfire, visit http://firewise.org/.