USA — Citing drought conditions and hundreds of fires burning across the state, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday in order to deal with the situation.
“Because of the foregoing conditions, I declare that the ongoing danger of wildfires continues to threaten the State of Florida with a major disaster, and that as a consequence of this danger a state of emergency exists in the State of Florida,” Scott announced in the document.
The declaration essentially activates the state’s Division of Emergency Management, which will now coordinate statewide efforts to fight the 310 active fires burning across Florida right now.
The declaration also:
Puts any local and regional firefighting agencies at the disposal of the Division of Forestry
Puts the Director of the Division of Emergency Management in charge of coordinating efforts
Seek help from other states, and the federal government
Activates the Florida National Guard to provide assistance
Allows the Dept. of Transportation to waive tolls and other fees as needed in the event of evacuations
Allows agencies to designate government facilities as shelters if needed
The Governor’s declaration specifically talks about severe drought conditions in the Panhandle, Northeast Florida, East Central Florida and South Florida. Mr. Scott said the east coast, and northwest Florida have some of the highest values on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, and drought conditions are expected to continue to worsen in the next few weeks.
The declaration also specifically mentions the Espanola fire in Flagler County, which has burned 3,000 acres near Palm Coast. That fire is only 45 percent contained, and firefighters there say they are facing conditions that are worse than they were in 1998, when virtually the entire county was evacuated because of brush fires. Firefighters from Virginia and Mississippi are helping to fight this fire. Gov. Scott will be in Flagler County Tuesday to get a tour of the fire.
Fires in Levy County, and in the Everglades were also mentioned.
The Division of Forestry said there are 310 active fires in Florida, burning about 115,583 acres.