Tallahassee, FL -The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services today urged residents to learn how to protect themselves, their families and their properties from the dangers of wildfires. In commemoration of Florida’s Wildfire Awareness Week, April 10-15, the Department released tips for how residents can protect their homes from the threat of fire during wildfire season. Wildfire Awareness Week was established in recognition of Florida’s devastating 1998 wildfire season, during which more than 2,300 separate wildfires burned more than one half million acres, causing damage to more than 300 homes.
“During Florida’s driest months, April and May, we see our highest and often most destructive wildfire activity,” said Jim Karels, Director of the Division of Forestry. “Residents should pay close attention to weather forecasts and prepare their homes and communities to be able to survive a wildfire disaster. Although much of the state has seen rain recently, two weeks of dry, windy Florida weather can change wet areas into areas that are ready to burn.”
Due to Florida’s recent dry conditions and winter freezes this year, the Department’s Division of Forestry has responded to 13 percent more wildfires than during an average year, which are burning 23 percent more acreage. The Division has also suppressed several large wildfires, including the Iron Horse Fire that burned more than 17,000 acres.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services urges Floridians to take the following steps to protect their homes during wildfire season:
1. Remove leaves, pine needles, twigs and palm fronds, etc., from roofs and gutters.
2. Clear burnable materials like wood piles and dead plants from the sides of the home.
3. Clean, mow and water the area surrounding the home (up to 30 feet) to prevent leading wildfires from the woods to your door.
4. Use extra caution when doing anything that can cause a spark to fly into dry vegetation, including off-road travel.
5. Never leave a fire unattended.
6. Report all suspicious wildfire activity to the Department’s Arson Alert Hotline: 1-800-342-5869
For more information on how to protect your home and family, visit www.fl-dof.com.