BRYCEVILLE, Fla. – After a series of back-to-back hard freezes since the beginning of the year, the Weather Authority and the Florida Forest Service say our region should start preparing now for an active wildfire season as warmer and drier weather returns.
It appears as if Florida sunshine and seventy-degree temperatures will soon be the norm rather than the exception, but it rainfall totals, currently near-average for this of time of the year, start trending down more trouble may soon abound.
“We are having fires and we are seeing an increase in wildfire activity it’s very early in the season and we are wet. So that's kind of foreshadowing for what we anticipate to come," said Annelease Winter, a Florida Forest Service Wildfire Mitigation Specialist.
According to the Florida Forest Service, since the beginning of January a total of 400 wildfires have burned more than 5,5000 acres on both state and federal grounds.
Many of those fires were mainly across Central and South Florida and were mostly caused by fuel from recreational vehicles and equipment.
The blazes are a startling reminder of the last year's West Mims wildfire that spread across more than 133,000 acres.
But Winter cautions, this year is different due the active tropical season we experienced last fall.
“The unique challenge now is all of the hurricane debris that we are seeing from the recent storms," said Winter.
You should ask yourself these questions:
Can fire equipment get around my house safely?
Is there easy access to my property?
Are limbs and debris more than 30 feet away from my home?
If answered "no" to any of those questions, you may want to get to work this weekend cleaning up your yard in order to reduce fire danger.
“Once it drys out it might be a while for some of the bigger, heavier trees to dry out. But once that do dry out enough to burn that will increase the intensity of the wildfire that they produce by tenfold," said Winter.
If you decide to burn any of your potentially dangerous debris. Remember there's a burn ban in place in Duval County.
For those of you who live outside of the county make sure you abide any municipal regulations in place and avoid burning debris on windy days.
Check your latest fire weather forecast here.