Fire Conditions Comparable To Infernos Of ’98

Fire Conditions Comparable To Infernos Of ’98

published by

11 Feb 2009

BROOKSVILLE – Faced with the beginnings of the worst wildfire season in 11 years, local fire officials are asking for a total burn ban in the county.

Just in the past 41 days, county firefighters have extinguished 25 brush fires that scorched a collective 160 acres. By comparison, this time last year fire officials had put out 15 brush fires that torched 25 acres.

“The fire conditions are worse than 1998,” said Assistant Chief Frank DeFrancesco, referring to the infamous Central Florida wildfires that destroyed dozens of homes.

Repeated hard freezes have combined with existing drought conditions to provide an abundance of lightweight fuel for wildfires such as grasses and forest shrubs. A lack of rainfall, low relative humidity and breezy afternoon winds only aggravate the situation, according to the Department of Forestry.

“This winter’s been rough,” said Don Ruths, public information officer for the Department of Forestry.

It doesn’t take much to kindle a fire in these dry conditions.

Two brush fires broke out within minutes of each other on Tuesday and both briefly endangered nearby homes. The first ignited on Hexam Road, north of State Road 50, when an outside cooking fire got out of control.

Flames burned right in the middle of several acre plots with houses and burned up the grass that was supplying food for livestock.

Shortly after firefighters had control of that blaze another cropped up on Gordon Loop, east of Brooksville. DeFrancesco said sparks from a drill started that one.

DeFrancesco and other fire officials will ask county commissioners at their Jan. 24 meeting for a total burn ban in the county. This outlaws virtually all outdoor fires until further notice.

Lake, Citrus and Sumter counties have already enacted burn bans.

“We need to start watching ourselves,” DeFrancesco said.


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