Tallahassee, FL – May 25, 2012 -
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Forest Service has issued a warning to Floridians to use fire responsibly while celebrating Memorial Day weekend because of dangerous wildfire conditions. Long-term drought, low humidity and windy conditions have created high wildfire danger throughout parts Florida. This Memorial Day weekend, in particular, may come with added wildfire danger due to an extra push of dry air from Tropical Storm Alberto.
“Memorial Day weekend is a time to celebrate our nation’s freedoms with friends and family while enjoying the outdoors,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam. “However, it is important for Floridians to celebrate responsibly and be careful with fire.”
Despite recent rains in portions of the state, overall fire danger remains elevated due to extended drought. Even the smallest spark has the potential to become a wildfire - endangering property, homes and even lives, according to Jim Karels, state forester for the Florida Forest Service.
Individuals and families planning to visit forests or parks over the holiday weekend are encouraged to call ahead to learn whether or not campfires are permitted. This activity may be restricted in certain areas until the fire danger decreases.
Elevated fire danger has also contributed to burn bans in several counties including Flagler, Glades, Hendry, Lake, Okeechobee, Osceola, Pasco, Polk, Putnam, Seminole and Volusia. The Florida Forest Service encourages residents to contact local government officials for up-to-date information concerning burn bans.
The Florida Forest Service is encouraging citizens to follow several fire safety tips for safe celebrating this Memorial Day:
Dispose of charcoal briquettes properly
Use dedicated campfire rings where possible
Clear vegetation and dry debris down to bare soil within 10 feet around your campfire
Never leave a fire unattended
Make sure a fire is dead out before leaving
Take care when operating equipment such as lawn mowers, tractors, chainsaws, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) as any spark can start a wildfire under the current conditions.
Avoid parking cars in areas with tall grasses. A hot catalytic converter can easily ignite dry grass and debris.
Report wildfires by calling 9-1-1 or a local Florida Forest Service office.
Since January 1st of this year, 2,032 wildfires have burned 93,338 acres throughout Florida. This figure is nearly identical to wildfire activity levels at the same point in 2011, when unfavorably dangerous wildfire conditions were also a chief concern.
The Florida Forest Service manages one million acres of public forest land while protecting over 26 million acres of homes, forestland, and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire. For statewide wildfire updates and additional wildfire information, visit www.floridaforestservice.com or follow FFS on Facebook or Twitter.