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Florida Forest Service 'prepared' for possible wild fires caused by lightning

'Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, all those coastal communities––we are that dry swath of land right now,' David Grubich says
Posted at 6:02 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 18:04:26-04

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — Smoke can be seen rising from the ground at the site of The Long Bay fire near the Blue Field Preserve. 

It’s currently the largest active fire in the state.

David Grubich, mitigation specialist and public information officer for the Florida Forest Service, said the fire in western St. Lucie County broke out May 2 when a lightning strike ignited it.

“With this fire, particularly, it's 535 acres. Majority of this now, we have burned. Everything you see behind us, we did that, so we could secure this fire," said Grubich said. "So, we put a perimeter around it, and then we burned into the fire, taking advantage of the wind."

He said while the fire is 90% contained, fire crews remain alert this week amid dry conditions, low humidity and lightning in the forecast.

David Grubich mitigation specialist and public information officer for the Florida Forest Service May 2024
David Grubich says they put a perimeter to secure secure the fire so that it does not spread.

“Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, all those coastal communities––we are that dry swath of land right now, where just we're waiting for the lightning to come in for us to respond and put little fires out,” Grubich said.

Additional crews and equipment, like bulldozers and brush trucks, are on hand ready to respond.

“Right now, due to this fire, we've actually got our region four mitigation team that helps us throughout our region with mitigating wildfire risk," Grubich said. "Well, they also assist with wildfires.”

A brush fire burns in St. Lucie County near the fairgrounds on May 11, 2024,

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He urges people to try to mitigate fire risk at home by clearing debris on roofs, in gutters, and within 30 feet of a structure.

“You can be a mile, a mile and half, two miles away from this fire but you talk about embers and brands they lift with convection out of the fire," he added, "and then they spread a mile, a mile and half, two miles away,”

Right now, Indian River County is the only county under an official burn ban, however, the Florida Forest Service urges people in regions like Martin County and St. Lucie County to avoid outside burning as well.