USA — It only takes a spark. And during Central Florida’s dry season, an ember could quickly turn into a raging wildfire.
After an abnormally warm winter, the region has settled into a dry spell that could worsen and increase the likelihood of a bad wildfire season, meteorologists and wildfire experts say.
On Friday, more than a dozen fires of variable size were burning throughout Central Florida. So far this year, about 560 fires have burned more than 7,600 acres statewide, according to the Florida Forest Service.
Osceola is under a burn ban and Seminole County authorities on Friday declared a local state of emergency instituting their own burn ban because of the forecasted dryness.
The Keetch-Byram drought index which measures soil moisture on a scale of zero to 800 is at 568 for the Orlando area.
When the winds picks up and the air and soil dries out, the threat of conflagration arises, the Forest Service said. Rain can bring down that threat but forecasters don’t expect to see a drop of moisture until Tuesday.
Saturday is expected to be sunny with a high of 74. The low will drop to 49 with light winds.
Although no red-flag warnings have been issued, National Weather Service meteorologist Derrick Weitlich said there is an elevated threat of brush fires throughout the region.
This weekend’s relative humidity may dip to dangerous levels for a few afternoon hours each day particularly west and north of Orlando.
But conditions will improve into the work week as winds from the ocean bring more humidity into the region, Weitlich said.
Sunday and Monday are expected to be warm and sunny with highs in the upper 70s.
Tips for defending against wildfires:
Create 30 feet of defensible space around the home.
Keep flammable vegetation away from the home, fence and deck
Opt for low-growing, fire-resistant plants and materials
Store fire wood at least 30 feet from the home
Make wildfire preparedness a family project
Avoid open burning completely, especially during this dry season
Keep items available that can be used as fire tools, such as a rake, handsaw, chainsaw, bucket and shovel
Never throw a lighted cigarette from the window of a vehicle or walk off and leave a burning cigarette