In light of the severe drought that Southwest FL is experiencing, the Division of Forestry, fire departments and law enforcement agencies throughout Lee County are joining efforts in order not only to educate citizens about brushfire safety, but also to enforce the law. From December to June, during brushfire season, wildfires are easily ignited because of the dry weather conditions.
The ‘Brushfire Prevention Blitz’ will kick off February 2 in communities across Lee County. Firefighters and sheriff’s deputies will provide educational literature and safety tips at various locations, as well as canvas neighborhoods in order to point out precautions that homeowners should consider. This joint effort is supported by the Lee County Fire Chiefs’ Association and the Lee County Fire Marshals’ and Inspectors’ Association. Contact your local fire department for specific locations.
“Conditions are very dry and expectations are that local wildfire activity will be severe,” said Division of Forestry spokesperson Gerry LaCavera. “Wildfires will become intense and move quickly under these anticipated conditions. Now is the time for everyone to prepare,” he said. Since more than 70% of local wildfires are caused by people, citizens are urged to use common sense whenever using anything that can cause a flame or spark to land in dry brush areas.
Along with the expanded educational program by firefighters, Lee County Sheriff’s Deputies will add to the effort by increasing patrols and working alongside fire departments. “The risk is high, so our awareness is high,” said Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott. “Whether it’s the careless action of throwing a lit cigarette from a vehicle or the intentional setting of fires, deputies will be to quick enforce the applicable law,” he added.
How You Can Help
Most Floridians are accustomed to preparing for hurricane season, but many don’t realize that brush fire season lasts just as long and can be just as deadly. Follow these tips for reducing the potential for brush fires:
- Keep a clearance of 30 feet around structures.
- Make trees more fire-resistant by removing dead limbs, and clear away any brush, fallen leaves or pine needles.
- Wood, such as firewood or lumber, should be stored away from your home.
- Even the smallest spark, such as discarded cigarette, can ignite dry, brittle vegetation. Carelessness is one of the major causes of brush fires.
- Inspect nearby power lines to make sure limbs are cleared to a safe distance.
- Follow local burning regulations. Burn permits are regulated through the Division of Forestry.
- Clean gutters and roofs of pine needles and leaves at least twice a year.
- Keep flammable liquids in unbreakable containers and stored in a safe location.
- Make sure your home address is clearly marked and your driveway is at least 12 feet wide to provide access for emergency vehicles.
- Have an evacuation plan for your family and pets. Even if a fire isn’t affecting your neighborhood, you may be forced to evacuate due to hazardous smoke conditions.
- Call 9-1-1 immediately at the first sign of smoke or fire in a wooded area.
More information on how to make your home safer can be found on the Division of Forestry website at www.fl-dof.com.