Wildfire danger high across Northeast Florida

Drought, wind can quickly spark flames

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Wildfire season is getting into full swing throughout Northeast Florida due to days without rain, low humidity and windy conditions. The combination makes the weather ripe for potentially dangerous wildfires to spread quickly if they start.

A drier-than-usual start to the year has already sparked more than 650 wildfires across the state.

The Florida Forest Service is literally fighting fire with fire. Forestry employees are setting off controlled burns to get rid of the underbrush that fuels the flames in Duval, Baker and other Florida counties.

You could see smoke in some areas due to the prescribed burns. Forestry officials said the aftermath of Hurricane Irma is still causing problems. The storm left lots of trees, limbs and branches down in wooded areas where fires are most likely to start.

Duval County has the most extreme level for fire weather in the state along with Seminole and Orange Counties in central Florida.

Even the smallest flame can turn into a big brush fire under current conditions.

The Forest Service said that, right now, controlled burn permits are still being issued, but a burn ban is in place for Putnam and St. Johns counties in northeast Florida on Wednesday.

In Duval County, burning yard debris is illegal but in some other counties it is allowed.

Last year, a massive fire in Bryceville started because someone was burning debris in their backyard.

"We need folks to understand that, when they are using fire on their own, especially if they haven't had the training and experience we have had or other certified burners have had, it can turn on them quickly, especially in the wrong conditions" said Jennifer Hart, Jacksonville district manager  of the Florida Forest Service.

This year the Forest Service is expecting a wildfire season that is more active than usual. That is why it has been doing so many controlled burns this winter, trying to clear up some of the fuel that is out there.

If you live near woods, there are some things you can do to try and protect your property before the wildfire season really gets going. Clear any dead leaves or yard debris from around your home and yard. Also keep the area between the woods and your yard watered, especially when conditions are dry. 

Nassau County training, then close call

Smoke seen from a fire in Nassau County off U.S. 301 early Wednesday was a controlled burn and was used as a training tool for forestry firefighters. Later in the day, a fire believed to be sparked by sparks from a passing train caused some roads to close and the temporary evacuation of an apartment complex near Yulee.

 

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