The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, urges residents to be wildfire ready by highlighting Florida Wildfire Awareness Week, April 5-11. Since January, nearly 600 wildfires have burned more than 7,700 acres. Last year, a total of 1,969 wildfires burned 44,152 acres across the state. The wildfire threat in the Florida Panhandle is substantially greater than normal given the nearly 3 million acres of trees that were broken, uprooted, or blown over by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.
“With nearly half of our state covered in forests, Floridians must be aware of the dangers of wildfire,” stated Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Wildfire Awareness Week is an important reminder of the devastating effects wildfires can have on people and natural resources. It’s more important than ever to be aware of the risks, exercise caution, and follow the law – these steps will ensure the safety of your family, your community, and our wildland firefighters.”
“With below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures predicted statewide this spring, the wildfire risk is elevated as we approach the peak of Florida’s year-round wildfire season,” stated Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “I urge all residents to be cautious and understand their role in preventing wildfires to ensure the safety of their families and communities as well as our firefighters.”
While Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S., the leading cause of wildfires in the state is people, specifically escaped yard waste burns and unauthorized burns. The Florida Forest Service is encouraging the public to know Florida’s outdoor burning laws, learn to burn yard waste safely, and use extreme caution with all fire.
Florida Wildfire Awareness Week was established in recognition of Florida’s devastating 1998 wildfire season when more than half a million acres burned, and 337 structures were damaged or destroyed by wildfires. To view current wildfire conditions and activity, visit FDACS.gov/CurrentWildfires.