In Florida, wildfires can start any time of the year but peak activity generally begins in January and continues until the rainy season in early to mid-June. A typical year in the Sunshine State may see more than 4,600 fires burn nearly 110,000 acres of land and may have been started by arson, lightning or debris burning.
As a natural part of Florida’s ecosystems, a wildfire often begins unnoticed and can spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes. However, it doesn’t have to burn everything in its path. In fact, clearing your property of debris and regular landscaping are important first steps in reducing your risk for wildfire damage. Here are 11 steps you can take to reduce the risk of your home and property becoming fuel for a wildfire.
• Contact your local fire department, health department, or forestry office for information on fire laws in your community.
• Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
• Keep your lawn well-watered and maintained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
• Create defensible space by clearing vegetation around your home – at least 30 to 100 feet, depending on your area’s wildfire risk.
• Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet high.
• Dispose of debris and lawn cuttings quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
• Landscape with carefully placed, slow-growing and less-flammable plants. Your local county extension office can provide plant information.
• Check lawnmowers and farm equipment for properly working spark arresters.
• Properly extinguish fires when cooking outdoors and never leave fires unattended.
• Ensure your home’s street address is clearly marked for firefighters.
• Review and practice your fire escape plan at least twice a year.
• Review Florida Hazard Watch and Firewise Communities for additional information.
For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org and www.KidsGetAPlan.com.