Wildfire Season Whirling Toward Southwest Florida
By Mike Weston, Florida Divison of Forestry
It should come as no surprise that wildfire season is running toward us with each windy, dry day. The recent cold weather and freezes combined with ongoing dry conditions have created wildfire conditions that are worse than average for this time of year.
Currently, the drought index, commonly called KBDI (Keetch Byram Drought Index measures the deficit of soil moisture deficient in the top eight inches of soil from 0 to 800 with higher number meaning drier conditions), for Lee County is 564, Collier is 665, and Hendry is 708.
Everywhere in southwest Florida is affected and dry. The long range forecast is for the dry conditions to persist until June, meaning wildfire experts expect the dry conditions to worsen beyond what we saw last year, especially because of the frost and cold weather this winter. The combination has now created conditions that are very favorable to wildfires growing large and spreading fast.
Be a part of the solution! The recent 475 acre wildfire in Hendry County shows that residents and business owners need to hurry along actions to make sure they have 30 feet of defensible space around their home or place of business, at a minimum, that will deter a fire from burning right up to and into your house or other property.
Clean dry leaves off of roofs and out of bushes near houses and buildings, keep your lawn well trimmed and follow watering restrictions, and make sure that your address can easily be found from the road with reflective lettering that is at least 4 inches tall.
The Florida Division of Forestry is working to mitigate dangerous wildland fuel conditions through mechanical means and prescribed burning, but since January 1st, the Division of Forestry in Lee, Collier, and Hendry counties has responded to over 41 fires that have burned over 660 acres. This is more than a square mile of land already burned.
Most all are caused by people that thought the fire would not get away. We need the residents of southwest Florida to use extreme caution when they are around anything that is hot or can create a flame. Numerous fires have broken out due to the careless disposal of hot grill ashes, careless burning of yard trash, and improper construction of campfires. Remember, before you burn, call your local fire district or the Division of Forestry office for instructions, cautions, and permissions.
The safest wildfire is one that is prevented. As Smokey Bear says, �Only You Can Prevent Wildfires!�
For more information on how to be Firewise, to create defensible space, or to learn about burn laws go to www.fl-dof.com/wildfire.