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Only you can prepare your property for forest fires

Florida Forest Service offers free wildfire hazard assessments

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After two wildfires in the area destroyed several homes in less than a week, the Florida Forest Service is offering a program to help people keep their houses safe if flames threaten.

Forestry officials will come to people's properties and give them a free assessment to let them know what can be changed. 

News4Jax was with forestry officials Wednesday when they checked out one neighborhood on Jacksonville's Westside that has seen its share of fires. 

In June 1998, homeowners in the area of Chaffee and Halsema roads had to deal with a wall of flames from a wildfire. 

FROM WJXT's VIDEO VAULT: 1998 report on Westside wildfire

Fast forward to today, the area has grown and people have moved out and into the subdivision -- many who were not around for the wildfire. Since then, brush and trees have grown back near the homes. 

Annaleasa Winter, of the Florida Forest Service, walked the area, pointing out the problems. 

"What we are looking at in this neighborhood, there is a lot of dense vegetation, a lot of saw palmettos. It is one of the most combustible here in Florida, mixed in with this dense pine over storage.

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For most of the homes, the woods are just too close. Forestry officials said brush and trees need to be cut back. There also said there are several cases where woods decks against the house could easily become fuel for a fire, and there are a number of sheds that are sitting right on the edge of the woods. 

"If that shed ignites, that another concentrated source that could damage the property as well," Winter said. 

She also pointed out that fire pits pose a big threat. 

"You have a 25 foot setback for recreational. You can't have it next to the woods," Winter said.

It's something Legvanton Timley has been worried about since he moved in with his family four years ago. He walked News4Jax around his property, which butts right up against the woods. His wooden fence could become a tinderbox, and with the brush and other items in his backyard, he knows that could be a problem.

"Now that I know we can contact somebody about it, I'm going to give them a call," Timley said.

It's something other people can do as well. The Florida Forest Service has a checklist for residents to help prepare their homes for the ongoing fire season.

CHECKLIST: Is your home at risk for wildfire damage?

To schedule a free wildfire hazard assessment by the Florida Forest Service, call 904-266-8362.


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