42ºF

Fire officials urge caution because of dry conditions

Florida Forest Service: Be aware of surroundings when lighting campfires, grills

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Much of Northeast Florida is in the moderate to severe range when it comes to the state's drought index, which is why Florida Forest Service officials say, heading into the summer, folks need to be aware of their surroundings and use caution when lighting campfires and starting up their grills.

About seven contained fires are burning in the immediate area. They aren't spreading, but they are still smoking because it's so dry.

Many of them were caused by lightning. By far the biggest fire is in Clay County. It covers about 80 acres and is being blamed on someone being careless while burning debris.

Once a fire starts, it can spread quickly.

Weather conditions, like the amount of rain an area has seen or how strong the wind is can determine how fast or big the fire gets. Lightning can also strike an area and spark fire.

photo

"That's why here in Florida, we're really big on prescribed burning," Forest Ranger Trevor Orr said. "It reduces the fuel load on the forest floor, so if a lightning strike does occur, the fire has low intensity, and it doesn't damage any trees or property in the surrounding area."

But sometimes, fires do get out of control.

"The hotter the fire, the more energy there is released, and that can cause the larger fuels, like some of the broken limbs or fallen pine trees, to ignite," Orr said.

Another big problem for fires could be grills. Residents might be grilling their lunch or dinner and they might think they get the fire completely out, but fire officials said if it's even remotely smoldering and leaves, bark or pine needles blow in, it could start the fire up again and become a big problem.

Fire officials said if residents plan on having a bonfire, they need to make sure there is at least a 10-foot dirt clearance around it, and a metal fire ring to hold the fire in.

Fire officials said it's also important not to burn anything that isn't grown naturally because the chemicals could be harmful to people and the environment.

For more fire safety tips for homes, go to http://www.freshfromflorida.com