JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Conditions across the First Coast are ripe for wildfires, and forestry officials are warning you to be extra careful in the coming week and throughout Memorial Day.
The Ortega River wildfire is one of 22 wildfires burning right now throughout Florida. According to officials with the Florida Forest Service, it is 70% contained but has forced officials to temporarily close the Island Trail.
Victor Taylor, Duval County supervisor with the Florida Forest Service, said, “The Ortega River wildfire, is roughly 30 acres, it’s in a remote area. All evidence seems to be pointing to lightning at this time.”
From as far west as Live Oak, south to Palatka and north to the Florida-Georgia line, there are 10 wildfires burning.
Another wildfire, likely started by lightning Saturday night in Georgia, is sending smoke northwest toward Waycross. Winds will continue to blow toward Waycross this evening. Anyone driving in the area should take precautions due to the smoke and lower visibility.
News4JAX meteorologist Jonathon Stacey explained: “The elevated wildfire potential is not only aided by the warm temps, but we are also dealing with a rain deficit and possibly for the next 14 days, we could get less than 1/10th of an inch of rain. That said, we have relative humidity values, not a good situation when you combine all those weather factors together.”
Here are some safety tips from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as the area approaches drought-like conditions:
- Properly discard cigarettes.
- Keep vehicles off dry grass.
- Avoid activites with open flames or sparks.
- Avoid power equipment that create sparks.
- Obey burn bans.
- Evacuate if fire/smoke is heading your way.
- Evacuate if ordered to do so by local officials.
Here are safety tips from Firewise U.S.A. for homeowners on the best ways to protect their homes from wildfires:
- Limit the amount of flammable vegetation around your home.
- Mow the lawn regularly and trim branches, shrubs and overhanging limbs around your home.
- Remove plants containing resins, oils and waxes.
- Never store flammable materials or firewood underneath decks or porches.
- Make sure your home and neighborhood has clearly marked street names and numbers to make it easier for the fire department to respond.
It’s also recommended that you talk about and practice an emergency action plan with your family. Do not forget about pets and to include neighbors in those plans.
“Knowing that it is dry, people need to take it upon themselves to be cautious,” explained Taylor.