Dry spell

These two Chipola foresters, here giving Jackson County Commissioners a recent fire service update, and their colleagues are worried about the dangers of wildfire in a 22-day dry spell that is expected to continue.

The Florida Forest Service has issued a warning to area citizens about the danger that the current dry spell poses in the region, urging all to exercise extreme care with fire. The dry weather is expected to continue unabated for the next several days.

“It has been 22 days since appreciable rainfall has hit the seven-county area covered by the Florida Forest Service’s Chipola Forestry Center and little relief is in the forecast,” forestry officials said in a press release Thursday. “While late summer typically is a dry time of year, our area has entered a moderate drought. Wildfire activity has also increased causing the Florida Forest Service to tighten restrictions on burn authorizations until conditions improve.”

The Chipola Forestry Center’s team has responded to 29 wildfires this month so far in this area, eight of those happening this Wednesday.

Until the area receives widespread rains, officials advise using extreme caution during any outdoor burning activities.

“In simple terms, it’s getting really dry and no relief is in sight for a while,” said Mike Mathis, Chipola Forestry Center Manager. “We are placing daily restrictions for any prescribed burning or large pile burning right now, and we recommend using caution for any burning activity.”

Prescribed burning – acreage burns – and piles greater than eight feet in diameter or for land clearing purposes require authorizations from the Florida Forest Service while piles less than 8 feet in diameter of general yard debris do not.

The potential for massive wildfires in the area has been of special concern for the past year, in fact, because of Hurricane Michael’s path of destruction through the Panhandle. Fire has fuel to burn with many downed trees still on the landscape.

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at www.FDACS.gov\FLFloridaForest.

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