What’s Growing On: Wildfire season in Florida

The #1 cause of wildfires in Florida is escaped yard debris fires
The #1 cause of wildfires in Florida is escaped yard debris fires
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 4:09 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Wildfires occur year round in Florida, with a majority in the spring time. But wildfire season started even earlier this year; many just weeks ago throughout Marion County, in fort McCoy, Williston, Dunnellon, and Ocala.

“As long as fire has oxygen and something to feed on, meaning vegetation, it can burrow and tunnel underground and pop back up later,” said Ludie Bond, the Public Information Officer of the Florida Forest Service.

Florida is the lighting capital of the world, but lightning is not the #1 cause of wildfires. “We don’t have lightning year-round in Florida,” mentioned Bond. “So the rest of the year the #1 cause of wildfires is escaped yard debris fires.” Spring in Florida is our driest season. Even though Florida is a right to burn state, a perfect day for outdoor activities is not the perfect day to burn debris.

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“Is it windy? that’s pretty much a given,” explained Bond. “Is it dry? And you can tell if its dry if you have to put on ChapStick or something like that. And so that means whatever precipitation we did receive could evaporate rapidly, as well as our ground fuels.”

As of March 15th, 2023, much of North Central Florida is in the blue/green zones on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index. Marion County and south are in the red zone. When asking Bond if people in the blue/green zones should be concerned about wildfires, she said, “not severe anymore and not severe yet.” “If you are going to burn yard debris, along with watching the weather, have a shovel, rake, and a hose long enough to reach beyond your pile. Bond explained some other causes of wildfires. She mentioned,

“people dragging their trailers, their boat trailers and the chains are dragging, hit the asphalt , throw a spark, welding equipment, starting your lawn mower on dry grass.”

Bond recommends making contact with your county’s sheriff’s office and emergency management.

“Have that alert messaging that you want to sign up for, like Alert Alachua, Alert Marion,” said Bond. “Sign up for those so you get those alerts when there are any road closures, smoke impacts, or maybe the possibility of a potential evacuation.”

For current wildfire information, visit the Florida Forest Service website.

To be proactive and make a wildfire evacuation plan, visit wildfireready.com

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