Commissioner Putnam Urges Caution During Wildfire Awareness Week

Submitted by Ray Boothe, Senior Forest Ranger, Perry District Office  More than 500 Wildfires Have Burned 9,000 Acres Since January Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam and the Florida Forest Service shared tips today urging Floridians to be extremely careful with fires outdoors. 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. “This year, we have been very fortunate with increased rainfall in some parts of the state, but other areas are still very dry,” said Commissioner Putnam. “Our firefighters are working to minimize risk of wildfire and help keep homes, businesses and residents of Florida safe, but there are also simple steps Floridians can take to help prevent wildfire.” Wildfires generally occur in the spring and early summer months due to a lack of rainfall, low humidity and strong winds combined with increased springtime yard burns. Since Jan. 1, the Florida Forest Service’s firefighters have responded to more than 500 wildfires on 9,183 acres, most from human carelessness. “We all have the responsibility to help prevent wildfires,” said James Karels, Florida Forest Service state forester. “By preventing just one wildfire, we can reduce the risk to life, homes and property, while also reducing the cost to Florida taxpayers.”  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 eight-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 eight feet in diameter. Call your local Florida Forest Service field office (850) 973 5115, (http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Florida-Forest-Service).
·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 a 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 one 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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