Agriculture Press Release

January 7, 1999

Wildfire Threat Is Growing, Crawford Says

TALLAHASSEE Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford today issued a wildfire warning throughout the state due to the continued lack of rainfall and this weeks freeze.

"We already are below our normal rainfall and entering what is our driest season," Crawford said. "And this weeks freeze will cause a significant amount of dead vegetation, whose fuels just add to the wildfire threat."

Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, record low temperatures for the date were recorded in many parts of North and Central Florida as freezing temperatures in the interior part of the state reached as far south as Lake Okeechobee.

Floridas drought index stands as high as 600 in several North Florida counties in an index ranging from 0 to 800, with 800 characterized as "desert-like" conditions. Most other parts of the state are in the 500 range.

Last spring and summer, when record heat and drought triggered an unprecedented 2,300 wildfires that burned 500,000 acres, the states drought index ranged from 730 to 798.

Among steps recommended by Crawford to minimize problems:

  • Create a firebreak or "defensible space" of at least 30 feet around your home whenever practical.
  • Remove branches from the bottom of trees near your home to keep ground fires from spreading to the top of trees.
  • Keep roofs and gutters clear of debris, such as leaves and pine needles.
  • Keep a sufficiently long garden hose on hand to reach all parts of your house.
  • Remove dead and dying plants from around your home.
  • Locate all combustibles, including firewood, picnic tables and gas grills, away from structures.

Rural landowners also can reduce the likelihood of wildfire destroying their property by taking additional steps, Crawford said. They include:

  • Constructing firebreaks around the perimeter of a piece of property -- and in areas where valuable assets are located.
  • When possible, conduct "controlled" or "prescribed" burns every three to five years.
  • Keep adequate firefighting and water resources on the property.

For additional information about wildfire prevention, citizens are encouraged to contact a local Division of Forestry field office.


For more information:

Terence McElroy
(850) 488-3022

Jim Karels
(850) 488-6111

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