Ninety-one active fires across the state have been reported as of Monday, but this number can change several times a day, according to Ludie Bond, the wildfire mitigation specialist at the Waccasassa Forestry Center.
An active fire is uncontained no matter how long it has been burning. A fire can only be considered inactive once there is no longer any visible smoke or flame.
To contain these fires, firefighters use bulldozers to plow ditches around them. When the fire reaches the edge of the ditch, it cannot continue further because the dirt won't burn, so it is considered contained, Bond said.
Most of these fires are caused by lightning, but some are “incendiary” fires, or caused by humans. Sometimes, these fires are caused by burning debris.=
To combat incendiary fires, some counties enact burn bans, which prevent citizens from starting fires, especially when too close to homes and other flammable structures. This allows fire departments to focus on lightning-caused fires and other unpreventable situations.
“Right now, of course, we're encouraging people not to burn anything until we get significant rainfall, but we also have a sheet of tips such as not burning on windy days or leaving your fire unattended,” Bond said.
Bond also recommends following a three-step plan called “ready, set, go.”
“Ready” asks homeowners to make a fire-defendable space around their homes by clearing away dry leaf litter that can catch fire.
“Set” means to have an evacuation plan similar to any other natural disaster.
“Go” means to pay attention to local media outlets, social media and emergency management teams such as local fire rescue services to stay aware of any fires in the area, Bond said.
“Don't wait until a fire is coming your way to prepare,” Bond said.
Although changes in weather patterns may bring the rain needed to lower the drought index, Bond also warns lightning fires may continue.
Jamie Clifford, the district chief of the Alachua County Fire Rescue, notes that although burning is not allowed within Gainesville’s limits, it is important to follow the rules for burning yard waste for Alachua County citizens outside of Gainesville.
Two important tips are to always clear the area to bare soil and to cover any barrels with wire mesh to prevent sparks from spreading, Clifford said.
“We are coming into brush fire season now, and they have been increasing in the last week or so,” Clifford said. “It is important for people to stay safe and know these regulations.”