Warm, dry conditions prompt wildfire warning in Northeast Florida

Southern Clay County could be vulnerable because of hurricane debris burns

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – A brush fire in Middleburg last weekend off Rustic Oak Trail was still smoldering underground Tuesday, as fire officials issued a warning that certain parts of Clay County might be vulnerable to wildfires this season.

The Middleburg fire, which is being closely monitored by forestry and fire officials, burned near a home that's still under construction. Officials said that if the wind kicks up and humidity is down, the wildfire could reignite.

Clay County Fire Chief Lorin Mock said the southern part of the county could be vulnerable to similar fires as people continue trying to clean up debris from Hurricane Matthew.

“We have one, specifically, that was caused by a backyard burn. We’ve been working with forestry since that time,” Mock said. “When you think that Matthew was done in October, many people still had debris down in yards (that) they had not gotten out and had chosen to try and burn it off in the spring. It’s OK to do that within confines of state requirements.”

The areas in which people could need to be cautious are not just in southern Clay County.

Florida Forest Service officials said there have been 32 wildfires in Nassau, Duval and Clay counties so far this year that have burned 362.7 acres, and many of those fires were caused by debris burning.

The Weather Authority said that the warm winter the area has had and drier conditions in February mean certain parts of the region need to be on alert.

“Southern Clay County, some of Flagler County, western St. Johns County, all the way over to Alachua County, they haven’t gotten the same rainfall we’ve seen the past month over the coastline, around I-10 and in Georgia,” meteorologist Rebecca Barry said.

Mock said residents who want to do any controlled burns should keep track of the weather to make sure it’s not extremely dry with low humidity. But, he said, it’s even better to take any remaining debris to the curb, if that's an option.

For more on the spring wildfire season forecast, go to http://www.freshfromflorida.com.

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