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Residents and visitors should stay alert to wildfire threats | Environment

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Residents and visitors should stay alert to wildfire threats
Environment, News
Residents and visitors should stay alert to wildfire threats

Sarasota County Fire officials are encouraging residents and visitors to stay alert to wildfire threats. They say last month ranked among the top five driest Novembers on record across the region, significantly increasing the risk to wildfires.

Each year, thousands of acres of land and many homes are destroyed by fires. Droughts, lightning, burning debris or carelessness contribute to the ignition of wildfires. It is everyone's responsibility to keep a watchful eye on the threat of wildfires.

Sarasota County Fire Operations Chief Michael Regnier warns that "lack of concern and lack of fire safety measures can be disastrous. As wildfires often begin unnoticed and spread quickly, residents can reduce risk to family, home and property by creating a family plan. Decide what to do and where to go before wildfires threaten."

He offers these tips:

  • Most Florida wildfires are caused by lightning strikes. Arson and carelessly discarded cigarette butts contribute to the cause as well. Remember there is an ordinance against throwing cigarette butts and ashes out of vehicles. You could be responsible for damages your carelessness may cause.
  • Define your defensible space. Ensuring that there is a cleared area around your house reduces the intensity and risk of a wildfire from spreading to your home. Defensible space not only helps to protect your home in the critical minutes it takes a fire to pass, it also gives firefighters an area to work in. During a large-scale fire, when many homes are at risk, firefighters must focus on homes they can safely defend.
  • Clearing flammable vegetation, debris and installing heat resistant soffit vents will enhance your home's chances to survive wildfire.
  • Monitor your local radio and television stations for fire reports, evacuation procedures and evacuation centers. Keep an emergency checklist handy and prepare to evacuate if your neighborhood is threatened. Proper preparation includes closing all windows and doors, arranging garden hoses so they can reach any area of your house, and packing your car for a quick departure.
  • Store firewood, propane tanks or gasoline as far from the house as possible.
  • Clean gutters and roof of leaf litter and pine needles.
  • When planting foundation plants, keep a clear space at plant maturity of at least 2-3 feet from the side of the house. Use fire-resistant plants as much as possible.
  • Do not dispose of yard waste trimmings or dead plants on vacant lots.
  • Make sure smoke alarms are in good working order in your home.
  • Do not water your roof when a wildfire approaches your home. It places you in danger and reduces the water pressure for the fire hydrants.
  • Have an emergency supply kit ready. Every family should have an emergency supply kit for any disaster event.
  • When driving in reduced visibility, reduce your speed and drive with your headlights on.

Florida residents and visitors who want the latest information about travel conditions during wildfires can call the Florida Department of Transportation's (FDOT) free 511 Travel Information System or visit www.FL511.com. The 511 system provides travelers with up-to-the-minute reports about major evacuation routes, bridge and road closures, and roadways with toll suspensions.

For more information about wildfires, call the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000, or visit www.scgov.net.

Release courtesy Sarasota County Government.

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