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Fla. Comm. Adam Putnam warns of extreme wildfire danger

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With more than 1,000 fires burning 20,430 acres since January, Comm. of Agriculture Adam Putnam and the Florida Forest Service are asking Floridians to be extremely careful with fires outdoors as the state’s wildfire danger continues to increase. This week is Wildfire Awareness Week, which recognizes wildfires that raged across Florida in 1998, burning more than 500,000 acres and damaging or destroying 337 homes and structures.

According to a release from Putnam’s office:

Wildfires generally occur in the spring and early summer months due to a lack of rainfall, low humidity and strong winds. However, Florida is already experiencing a higher than average occurrence of wildfires near homes and neighborhoods.

“Most wildfires are caused by human carelessness,” Putnam said. “Right now, it is critical that we all do our part to prevent wildfires, especially in areas where homes and lives could be threatened.”

The two most frequent causes of wildfires this year are debris escaping from burn piles and arson. Since Jan. 1, the Florida Forest Service’s firefighters have responded to more than 1,000 wildfires on 20,430 acres.

“People should be extremely cautious while burning outdoors,” James Karels, Florida Forest Service state forester said. “If we can reduce the number of human-caused wildfires, it will increase safety for Florida’s citizens and firefighters alike.”

The following tips can help prevent wildfires:

  • Check with your local city or county officials to see if there are any burn restrictions in the area.
  • Keep fires contained to an 8-foot diameter pile or non-combustible barrel. Fires must be at least 25 feet from forests, 25 feet from homes, 50 feet from paved public roads and 150 feet from other occupied buildings.
  • Obtain a burning authorization from the Florida Forest Service for piles larger than 8 feet in diameter. Call your local Florida Forest Service field office (www.floridaforestservice.com/field_operations).
  • Check the weather daily and don’t burn on windy days or when the humidity is below 30 percent.
  • Never leave a fire unattended, and make sure it is completely out before leaving.
  • Keep a shovel and water hose handy in case the small fire starts to escape containment.
  • Report suspicious activity to the Arson Alert Hotline at 1-800-342-5869. Callers may remain anonymous, and information about an arson-caused fire could be worth up to a $5,000 reward.

The Florida Forest Service manages more than 1 million acres of public forest land while protecting 26 million acres of homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire. For statewide wildfire updates and additional wildfire information, visit www.floridaforestservice.com. For more information about the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com.

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