Florida Forest Service reports fewer, yet larger wildfires

Florida Forest Service reports fewer, yet larger wildfires

The Florida Forest Service has seen a decrease in the number of wildfires compared to this time last year, but an increase in the number of acres burned.

They tell us as the temperature continues to rise, so do the chances of a forest fire.

Just to put that into perspective, last year, the Florida Forest Service accounted for 83 wildfires, which burned 581 total acres. This year, they're reporting 46 wildfires, in which 754 acres burned. Meaning the wildfire count has decreased, but the fires we have seen, are bigger.

When it comes to fighting those wildfires, there's a specific process wildland firefighters use.

"We offload a bulldozer, we put the plow into the ground and we churn dirt," said Florida Forest Service Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, Joe Zwierzchowski. "Dirt is not going to burn, so we take it down to bare and mineral soil, and separate the burning vegetation from the unburnt vegetation."

The process could take 20 minutes to several hours depending on weather conditions and terrain.

If experts determine you're at fault for causing the wildfire, you can be fined.

"Fines can range depending on how big the fire is, what type of machinery is brought in to fight the flames and how much man power it takes to extinguish," said Zwierzchowski.

Pensacola is the only city out of Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties that prohibits backyard burning. For every other city, there are legal requirements.

"The pile has to be less than eight feet in diameter, is has to be 25 feet away from other brush, wildland, undeveloped property or structures," said Zwierzchowski. It has to be 150 feet away from your neighbor's house, 50 feet away from a paved public road, and 25 feet away from your house."

You can contact the Florida Forest Service to have a wildland firefighter come out and do an 'on-site inspection' to make sure you're burning safely and legally.

Contact the Florida Forest Service

Office: (850) 681-5800

CLICK HERE to connect to the FFS's website.

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