Ag commissioner warns residents to be cautious with fire

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By Angye Morrison

Floridians throughout the Big Bend are being asked to avoid outdoor burning, according to a press release from Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson.

Bronson has also asked residents to check with their local forestry office to determine if a local fire ban is in effect.

“Prevention is the key,” Bronson said. “We’re asking residents and visitors alike to exercise extreme caution when you use anything that involves fire or high heat. Before conducting any outdoor burning, check with officials to see if it is a dangerous burning day and if there is a local burn ban in effect.”

A lack of substantial rainfall, coupled with freezes throughout the state, has left Florida’s vegetation ripe for wildfires, the press release stated.

Statewide, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index currently stands at 520, well above normal numbers for this time of year. The index also shows that nearly half of Florida is well above average and is experiencing severe dry conditions.

Since Jan. 1, there have been 1,024 wildfires in Florida that have burned a total of 24, 730 acres. Because lightning season has not yet begun, all of the fires to date have been caused by humans and were avoidable.

Gadsden County is hovering between 415 and 465 on the index currently, and local forestry officials have joined Bronson in urging residents to use caution.