Officials urge wildfire vigilance; lack of rain increases state's wildfire risk
Each year, thousands of acres of land and many homes are destroyed by wildfires. Droughts, lightning, burning debris or carelessness contribute to the ignition of wildfires. Additionally, a growing number of people live in new Florida communities, building homes in areas that were once wild lands. It is everyone's responsibility to keep a watchful eye on the threat of wildfires. The below-average rainfall for the last four to five months has significantly increased the area's wildfire risk.
Sarasota County Fire Operations Chief Michael Regnier warns that "lack of concern and lack of fire safety measures can be disastrous. As wildfires often begin unnoticed and spread quickly, residents can reduce risk to family, home and property by creating a family plan. Decide what to do and where to go before wildfires threaten."
He offers the following tips:
Define your defensible space. Ensuring that there is a cleared area around your house reduces the intensity and risk of a wildfire from spreading to your home. Defensible space not only helps protect your home in the critical minutes it takes a fire to pass; it also gives firefighters an area to work in. During a large-scale fire, when many homes are at risk, firefighters must focus on homes they can safely defend.
Monitor your local radio and television stations for fire reports, evacuation procedures and evacuation centers. Keep an emergency checklist handy and prepare to evacuate if your neighborhood is threatened. Proper preparation includes closing all windows and doors, arranging garden hoses so they can reach any area of your house, and packing your car for quick departure.
Store firewood, propane tanks or gasoline as far from the house as possible.
Clean gutters and roof of leaf litter and pine needles.
When planting foundation plants, keep a clear space at plant maturity of at least 2-3 feet from the side of the house. Use fire-resistant plants as much as possible.
Do not dispose of yard waste trimmings or dead plants on vacant lots.
Make sure smoke alarms are in good working order in your home.
Do not water your roof when a wildfire approaches your home. It places you in danger.
Have an emergency supply kit ready. Every family should have an emergency supply kit for any disaster event.
When driving through an area with reduced visibility, reduce your speed and drive with your headlights on.