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Agriculture Press Release

December 3, 1999

Wildfire Threat Is Growing in North Florida, Crawford Warns

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford is warning North Florida residents of the increasing wildfire threat caused by growing drought index levels and recent freezing temperatures.

"Rainfall amounts already are significantly below normal, and we are entering what is traditionally Floridas driest season," Crawford said. "This weeks low humidity and freezing temperatures will increase the amount of dead vegetation which can fuel wildfires."

According to state forestry officials, drought indices are at 500 or above in several North Florida counties stretching from Panama City to Perry to Jacksonville. The Keetch-Byran Drought Index ranges from 0 to 800, with 800 being "desert-like" conditions.

"With hunting season beginning and holiday vacations upon us, I am urging everyone who goes outdoors to be cautious and help prevent wildfires," Crawford said.

Crawford urged residents to take precautions to help protect their homes and property from the threat of wildfire. Among the 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.
  • Keep adequate firefighting and water resources on the property.

For additional information about wildfire prevention, citizens are encouraged to contact their local Division of Forestry field office, or visit the Division of Forestry web site at www.fl-dof.com .

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For more information:

Jim Karels
(850) 488-6111



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