Dry Conditions Contribute To Wildfires Burning Across Florida
The wildfires have burned more than 4,000 acres and closed a portion of I-95.
The Florida Forest Service is deploying a task force from the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend regions to South Florida to assist in containing wildfires that are burning across the state.
As of Friday, Forest Service officials said 46 fires are burning more than 4,000 acres in Florida — 29 of which are south of the I-4 corridor and burning 4,017 acres.
“With little to no rain in the extended forecast and temperatures rising, the additional resources are critical as we respond these active wildfires,” Florida Forest Service Director Erin Albury said in a news release.
The Tree Frog Fire has burned 800 acres in Indian River County, just south of the Brevard County line, and has closed a portion of I-95, officials said. Drivers are urged to use caution in the area.
“It’s more important than ever for residents to be cautious and understand their role in preventing and preparing for a wildfire,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a news release. “All residents and travelers in the vicinity of the Tree Frog Fire should closely monitor the media for updates on the wildfire and road conditions. Together, we can help ensure the safety of our families, communities, and firefighters.”
The dry conditions prompted the National Weather Service to extend a Red Flag Warning for areas including the greater Tampa Bay region.
Red Flag Warning expanded for much of West Central and SWFL through this evening. #NWS issues a Red Flag Warning to alert land managers to an ongoing or imminent critical fire weather pattern. Any fires that develop will spread rapidly so avoid any outdoor burning today! #flwx pic.twitter.com/npDURHNkgG— NWS Tampa Bay (@NWSTampaBay) May 21, 2021
Megan Borowski, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, said dry conditions have contributed to the fires.
“High pressure over the Eastern Seaboard has kept our area dry over the past week, allowing vegetation to dry out,” Borowski said. “Ample fuel loads, low humidity levels in the atmosphere, and stiff winds gusting about 30 miles an hour are all very supportive of fire development and spread.”
Borowski said outdoor burning is strongly discouraged, and in some spots, temporary burn bans have been enacted by the Forest Service.
She said winds should die down later this evening, detracting from fire spread risk, but that conditions are expected to stay hot and dry through at least next week.
Officials say they suspect a campfire started the Tree Frog Fire, but the cause remains under investigation.