Special to the Highlands News-Sun

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Forest Service is highlighting the dangers associated with wildfire, encouraging Floridians to prioritize wildfire prevention and preparation during National Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6–12.

“Florida’s wildfire season is year-round, and it’s critical that everyone have a plan to keep their families, homes, property and community safe,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried. “I urge all citizens to incorporate wildfire preparedness into their disaster plans.”

The 2019 Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!,” works to educate everyone about the small but important actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe.

This year, 1,591 wildfires have burned over 89,600 acres across Florida. Residents can take a proactive approach to reducing the risk of wildfire in their community by creating a Personal Wildfire Preparedness Plan and following these foundational tips:

- Keep dry and dead debris away from homes, fences and decks.

- Keep roof and gutters free from debris such as pine needles, leaves and branches.

- Keep flammable materials like gasoline and firewood away from homes.

- Have 30 feet of defensible space around homes and sheds.

Wildfire danger levels typically increase after hurricane season due to drying debris. This is evident in the Panhandle where Hurricane Michael left 72 million tons of trees broken, uprooted or blown over across 2.8 million acres. The unprecedented volume of damaged trees resulted in dense pockets of vegetation, creating an exponential increase in the amount of fuel spanning 11 counties. Since Michael’s landfall on Oct. 10, 2018, there have been 275 wildfires that have burned over 4,100 acres in the impacted area.

“Preparing the exterior of your home and yard is vital to protecting not only your family and communities from wildfire, but our wildland firefighters and first responders,” said Jim Karels, state forester and director of the Florida Forest Service. “With current rainfall deficits and little rain forecasted in the driest areas of the state, now is the time to prepare and avoid a potentially catastrophic disaster.”

To access wildfire prevention resources, visit FDACS.gov/FLForestService or contact your local Florida Forest Service Wildfire Mitigation Specialist for assistance with assessing, managing and reducing your wildfire risk.

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.

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