Don't let smoke provoke your ire

Published May 12, 2007

People need to use some common sense this weekend. With 236 wildfires blanketing smoke across the state, even the most innocent lapse in judgment could worsen an already major public health threat. Motorists need to drive carefully, small children and the sick should stay inside and those outdoors should be cautious even in their normal pursuits.

Northern winds pushed another heavy fog of smoke across the Tampa Bay area Friday. With no chance of significant rain in sight, it may be weeks before the smoke from fires in Georgia and northeast Florida finally clears away. As of Friday, nearly 90, 000 acres across Florida were burning, from the Panhandle to South Florida. Though firefighters have managed to limit the damage, the weekend and the Mother's Day holiday add risks of their own.

The best precautions are obvious: Young children, the elderly and the sick should stay inside. Smokers should be careful where they discard their trash. Those intent on washing ash from their cars should be careful not to park over tall or dry grass; the underside of a warm vehicle can spark a fire. Cooks grilling out should watch their fires. The drought has left the ground vulnerable to the slightest spark. Be mindful at the parks and beaches.

Mother's Day will further congest the roads this weekend. Motorists should expect the smoke will make vehicles difficult to see and shorten reaction times. Roads closed by smoke also could make for some hot tempers. Hang in there; the rainy season should be arriving soon. Until then, extra caution could save a life.