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When the thermometer hits 80 degrees in January, it is hard to remember this is our winter season. But a drive along Florida’s forested highways is a visual reminder. Much of our greenery is brown, since rainy season is months away. And, that means the wildfire risk is heightened. From January through March, the wildfire risk in Southeastern states increases.
The state Dept. of Agriculture publishes a daily Wildland Fire Danger Index and only a few counties are currently at moderate risk (thanks to some recent thunderstorms). But the wildfire threat is present until we hit the summer months, so you’ll be hearing those Smokey the Bear commercials on the radio. Smokey’s familiar refrain (“Only you can prevent forest fires.”) is a refresher on some of the simple things to avoid, such as making sure your car does not start a wildfire. Hot cars parked on dry grass is like a match to a fireplace log.
Smokey knows 90% of wildfires are caused by humans. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has tips on reducing wildfire risks. Top tips: Create defensible space by removing decayed leaves and trees near your home, and build with fire resistant materials.
Notice all those dead plants and twigs in your yard? They are not mere reminders of a harsh winter; they are kindling, and we have a wildfire risk in Florida that should not be taken lightly.
Most people do not think of Florida when they hear about wildfires. California typically comes to mind. But Florida is consistently ranked among the top 10 states for wildland fires. It was an especially fiery year in 2007, when more than 578,000 acres burned. California had more than one million acres on fire that year.