Florida Forest Service gets reinforcments as Gov. Scott declares wildfire emergency

Crews from Alachua County on Treasure Coast
Posted at 5:41 PM, Apr 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-11 17:41:23-04

Tuesday, a NewsChannel 5 crew was in the passenger seat as Florida Forest Service firefighter Jeff Curl drove back into the heart of the McCarty Ranch fire in western Port St. Lucie.

“It was so wet last year at this time, you wouldn’t be able to drive in here right now," said Curl.

275 acres have burned at the ranch, keeping Florida Forest Service Firefighters busy.  Right now, the fire is 100% contained, but it could still smolder for weeks.

“Last year at this time, I ran one maybe two (fires).  Last week, I’m already up to 13," said Curl.

From the beginning of the year until now, the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee County has seen a 400% increase in wildfires.

So Curl is on constant watch, finding and dousing hot spots in the woods.

“Our biggest concern is water conservation.  We’re in the middle of nowhere and it’s dry.  So I want to wet area around there so I’m not wasting water.”

He finds some wood that is still hot to the touch.  Using a fire rake, he breaks it up and checks to see it still has some moisture in it.The Forest Service’s Okeechobee District getting help now from its northern colleagues.

Five bulldozers and crew members down from Alachua County for a two-week stint. With more than 100 active fires of at least 100 acres in Florida,  they’ll likely be busy moving from fire to fire.

So far this year, Florida has lost more than twice the amount of land to fire as it had last year at this time.