Press release from the Florida Forest Service
MILTON, Fla. – Officials with the Florida Forest Service’s Blackwater Forestry Center are issuing words of warning ahead this Memorial Day weekend as it has been two weeks since the area has seen appreciable rainfall and conditions are ripe for wildfire.
“We all know it’s dry and folks just need to be careful,” said David Smith, Operations Administrator for Blackwater which handles wildfire response in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties.
Florida has a 12-month risk of wildfires but March-early June typical see the peak of activity. Firefighters from Blackwater have responded to 36 wildfires since March and there 67 active wildfires throughout the state totaling more than 5,000 acres.
“It’s not out of the ordinary for this time of year,” Smith said. “We’ve had several large fires over the years impact our area on or around Memorial Day and it’s important that people are cautious with what they’re doing in regard to fire until we some significant rain.”
Residents are asked to refrain from any outdoor burning and to be extremely cautious with charcoal grills and campfires.
Those who chose to burn yard debris may do so in piles less than 8 feet in diameter as long as they meet the setbacks and there are no city or county ordinances against it. In addition to meeting the required setbacks, it is recommended that those who chose to burn have a charged water hose and shovel or rake on hand, never burn on windy days and never leave a fire unattended.
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 wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FDACS.gov/FLForestService.