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Ag agency tips for protecting homes in wildfire season

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Tallahassee – The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Florida Forest Service offered five tips to help Floridians protect themselves against the dangers of wildfire. Wildfire Awareness Week, which recognizes the wildfires that raged through Florida in 1998, burning more than 500,000 acres and damaging or destroying 337 homes and other structures, is April 8-14.
“Florida is unique in that it experiences a year-round wildfire season, with heightened wildfire activity during the spring months,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “Although we may receive sporadic rain, extended drought conditions are forecasted to persist throughout spring and into summer. Over the coming weeks and months, it is likely that Florida will experience very high to extreme wildfire danger due to these dry conditions. It is critical for Floridians to take steps to ensure their own safety.”
The department’s Florida Forest Service manages more than one million acres of public forest land and protects over 26 million acres of homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire.
Since January 1, more than 1,100 wildfires have burned nearly 20,000 acres in Florida. Most of these fires were caused by human carelessness. To prevent wildfires, follow these five simple steps:
Check with local authorities for any temporary restrictions on burning yard waste
Contain fires to an eight-foot diameter pile or non-combustible barrel at least 25 feet from forests, 25 feet from homes, 50 feet from paved public roads and 150 feet from other occupied buildings
Do not 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 escapes containment
In addition to the tips listed above, Floridians should also report any suspicious fires or fire activity to 911 or their local Florida Forest Service office.
In 2011, the Florida Forest Service responded to more than 4,700 wildfires that burned over 220,000 acres, a 32 percent increase from the previous year. Firefighters saved more than 1,100 homes and business in Florida.
For statewide wildfire updates and additional wildfire information, visit www.floridaforestservice.com or follow the department’s Florida Forest Service on Facebook or Twitter.