Friday, May 24

Firefighters concerned over coming wildfire season

We are just about at the start of Florida’s wildfire season, and local fire districts want to make sure you’re not overlooking the potential dangers.

Wildland firefighter Ethan Brooks is fighting fire with fire.

Hes in the middle of a nature preserve in western St. Lucie County, igniting what will become a 55-acre controlled burn.

Its part of the states proactive approach to preventing wildfires.


“Our agency will go in on some of these large wooded areas … county preserves,” Brion Pauley with St. Lucie County’s Environmental Resources, said. “We work with the fire district to do prescribed burns, fuel reduction to reduce the risk for the community.”

But if you live in or near a wooded area, you can do your part, by ensuring there’s 30 feet of defensible space around your home.


“Defensible space is space between your house and vegetation that might be flammable. We live in Florida, everything as far as vegetation is fuel,” Pauley said.

Right now, St. Lucie County is the driest county in Florida, and while the El Nio weather pattern produced a wetter winter, that’s no guarantee that well have a quiet fire season.

“A lot of these fires are wind-driven so even though it could be a little less in the drought index we also look at the Haines index as well,” St. Lucie County Battalion Chief Wayne Boyer said.

The Haines index looks at the stability and moisture content of the lower atmosphere, and whether dry, unstable air could lead to wildfires.

What also has raised a lot of concern is what fire watchers say are the weather patterns setting up similar to what happened in the Treasure Coast in 1999.

Thats when wildfires destroyed more than 40 homes in Port St. Lucie.

Amazingly, there were no fatalities.

If you want to see how dry it is near you home now, try to tie a pine needle.

If you cant, its lost its moisture.

So dont forget to clear them off your roof and out of your gutters.


“All it takes is an ember to drop on a roof, roll down your roof and it starts a fire,” Pauley said.


And Just like with hurricanes, its important to have a “go bag.”

“If you have respiratory illnesses. Asthma, COPD, have extra medications in that go bag. Obviously all your essentials. Have your evacuation route planned out,” Boyer said.

As of Sunday, there were no major active wildfires in the region, and firefighters are hoping for an easier season.

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