Floridians should consider wildfire preparations as important as hurricane preparations
While many Floridians know how to prepare their home for a hurricane, it’s crucial to conduct a wildfire safety home checkup – especially in dry periods like much of the state is currently experiencing. David Godwin, director of the Southern Fire Exchange provides tips for preparing for a wildfire.
“Much of the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Big Bend Region are in a dry period right now and we’re heading into the time of year when we expect dry conditions,” Godwin said.
Rainfall for the region shows many areas of Florida tracking around one to four inches below normal since September. Year-to-date records from the National Weather Service also show departures from normal for many areas across the state. The most recent Seasonal Drought Outlook from NOAA for March to June and the National Drought Monitor shows Florida as dry or in a drought and will likely to continue to be dry through June.
“Abnormally warm conditions for parts of the state have also increased drying of our soils, fuels like fallen leaves and needles and vegetation this year,” he said. “We would hope that by the end of June our typical thunderstorm pattern will set in across much of the state and bring some much needed rain.”
With many Floridians working from home and practicing social distancing, this is a great time to do a quick wildfire safety home checkup.
“Doing a seasonal wildfire safety home checkup can be a quick and easy way to reduce your wildfire risk,” he said. “Removing leaf litter, vegetation and hazardous materials from your gutters and around your home doesn’t take much time or equipment but research has shown it can make a difference during a wildfire emergency.”
You can’t get ready once a fire starts, you must be ready ahead of time, the Florida Forest Service warns. They ask residents to follow three steps; create a clean fire-resistant space around the home, develop a family evacuation plan, and evacuate early when wildfire is near.
“Similar to how we prepare for hurricane season, Floridians have the ability to plan and prepare for wildfires,” Godwin said. “Residents can do their part to reduce the risk around their homes and forest managers can do their part by using prescribed fire or mechanical treatments.”
UF/IFAS and the Florida Forest Service have some great resources that include tips on how to help protect homes and businesses. A helpful video from the Florida Forest Service “Ready Set Go” partners explains the importance of an evacuation plan and what to keep in mind.