Moderate drought brings risk of wildfire

Published March 12, 2007

The weak El Nino pattern in the Pacific has ended and it did not produce the expected winter rainfall amounts. The majority of our state is now classified as being in a "moderate drought condition," with areas south of Interstate 4 becoming increasingly dry and expected to worsen as the season goes on.

The March to May outlook predicts drier than normal conditions with increasing fire danger potentials. Readers within our Withlacoochee Forestry Center's five-county regions (Citrus, Hernando, Sumter, Lake and Pasco) can expect wildfire risks to fluctuate between moderate and high conditions with periodic postings of red flag warnings from the National Weather Service.

It is important to note that wildfire risk conditions are normally issued for periods of several days to a week. A red flag warning can be issued during any risk condition, and is a temporary warning four to eight hours in length where a dangerous combination of temperature, relative humidity and wind may exist, increasing the risk for wildfire occurrence.

We expect periods of restricted open or prescribed burn authorizations. The public's cooperation in adhering to these restrictions, once imposed, is solicited.

Even though the Division of Forestry directives may allow for the cautious issuing of open burn permits during these fluctuating wildfire risk conditions, some county and city statutes may be more restrictive and you are advised to check with them if planning an outdoor burn within their jurisdictions.

The Division of Forestry will provide updates on the wildfire season forecast. For more information regarding wildfire risks, call wildfire mitigation specialist, Don Ruths in Brooksville, at (352) 754-6777, ext. 119.

Editor's note: This public service information was provided by Don Ruths, public information officer with the Withlacoochee Forestry Center.