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Firefighters concerned over coming wildfire season

Agencies take proactive approach to preventing them
Posted at 4:13 PM, Apr 07, 2024

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — We are just about at the start of Florida's wildfire season, and local fire districts want to make sure you're not overlooking the potential dangers.

Wildland firefighter Ethan Brooks is fighting fire with fire.

He’s in the middle of a nature preserve in western St. Lucie County, igniting what will become a 55-acre controlled burn.

Wildland firefighter Ethan Brooks is in the middle of a nature preserve in Western St. Lucie County, igniting what will become a 55-acre controlled burn. April 7, 2024
Wildland firefighter Ethan Brooks is in the middle of a nature preserve in Western St. Lucie County, igniting what will become a 55-acre controlled burn.

It’s part of the state’s proactive approach to preventing wildfires.
 
"Our agency will go in on some of these large wooded areas ... county preserves," Brion Pauley with St. Lucie County's Environmental Resources, said. "We work with the fire district to do prescribed burns, fuel reduction to reduce the risk for the community."

Brion Pauley with St. Lucie County's Environmental Resources says they work with the fire district to do prescribed burns and fuel reduction to reduce the risk for the community. April 7, 2024
Brion Pauley with St. Lucie County's Environmental Resources says they work with the fire district to do prescribed burns and fuel reduction to reduce the risk for the community. April 7, 2024

But if you live in or near a wooded area, you can do your part, by ensuring there's 30 feet of defensible space around your home.
 
"Defensible space is space between your house and vegetation that might be flammable. We live in Florida, everything as far as vegetation is fuel," Pauley said.

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Right now, St. Lucie County is the driest county in Florida, and while the El Niño weather pattern produced a wetter winter, that's no guarantee that we’ll have a quiet fire season.

"A lot of these fires are wind-driven so even though it could be a little less in the drought index we also look at the Haines index as well," St. Lucie County Battalion Chief Wayne Boyer said.

St. Lucie County Battalion Chief Wayne Boyer says "a lot of these fires are wind-driven." April 7, 2024
St. Lucie County Battalion Chief Wayne Boyer says "A lot of these fires are wind-driven."

The Haines index looks at the stability and moisture content of the lower atmosphere, and whether dry, unstable air could lead to wildfires.

What also has raised a lot of concern is what fire watchers say are the weather patterns setting up similar to what happened in the Treasure Coast in 1999.

That’s when wildfires destroyed more than 40 homes in Port St. Lucie.

Amazingly, there were no fatalities.

If you want to see how dry it is near you home now, try to tie a pine needle.

If you can’t, it’s lost its moisture.

So don’t forget to clear them off your roof and out of your gutters.
 
"All it takes is an ember to drop on a roof, roll down your roof and it starts a fire," Pauley said.
 
And Just like with hurricanes, it’s important to have a "go bag."

"If you have respiratory illnesses. Asthma, COPD, have extra medications in that go bag. Obviously all your essentials. Have your evacuation route planned out," Boyer said.

As of Sunday, there were no major active wildfires in the region, and firefighters are hoping for an easier season.