Florida is home to millions of residents who enjoy the state's beautiful scenery and warm climate. But few people realize that these qualities also create severe wildfire conditions. Each year, thousands of acres of wildland and many homes are destroyed by fires that can erupt at any time of the year from a variety of causes, including arson, lightning and debris burning.
On April 22, 2018, Big Pine Key suffered a major brush fire that quickly spread due to high winds and a large amount of dry and dead vegetation and debris from Hurricane Irma. It took firefighters a week to completely put out the blaze that destroyed 72 acres and one home with a separate garage. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Adding to the fire hazard is the growing number of people living in new communities built in areas that were once wildland. This growth places even greater pressure on the state's wildland firefighters. As a result of this growth, fire protection becomes everyone's responsibility.
Are You Prepared for Wildfires?
Wildfires often begin unnoticed. They spread quickly, igniting brush, trees, and homes. Reduce your risk by preparing now, before wildfire strikes. Meet with your family to decide what to do and where to go if wildfires threaten your area:
- People start most wildfires. Practice wildfire safety.
- Contact your local fire department for information on fire laws.
- Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home.
- Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of reach from children.
- Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
- Post emergency telephone numbers.
- Plan escape routes away from your home by car and by foot.
- Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a wildfire.
How to Protect Your Home
- Clean roof and gutters.
- If you have a chimney, clean it at least once a year.
- Install a smoke detector on each level of your home.
- Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it's kept.
- Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
- Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chainsaw, bucket, and shovel.
Before a Fire
- Create a 30- to 50-foot safety zone around your home.
- Clear away all flammable vegetation.
- Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
- Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
- Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
- Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines. Do NOT attempt to do it yourself.
- Remove vines from the walls of the home.
- Mow grass regularly.
- Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue.
- Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish in an approved manner.
- Follow local burning regulations.
- Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials only in approved safety containers. Place containers in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
- Install smoke alarms, and replace batteries twice a year at Daylight Savings Time, or sooner if necessary.
- Place fire extinguishers in a visible and accessible location such as your kitchen and / or garage.
- Learn to use fire extinguishers.
- Plan your escape ahead of time.
- Get prepared for a fire emergency. Have a floor plan of your home and mark two ways out of each room.
- Review the plan with household members and practice your escape routes.
- Decide on a safe place outside your home where everyone will meet after evacuating.
Plan Your Water Needs
- Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, swimming pool, or hydrant.
- Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
- Install exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property.
- Consider obtaining a portable gasoline-powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.
When Wildfire Threatens
- If you are warned that a wildfire is threatening your area, listen to your battery-operated radio for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials.
- Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
- Confine pets to one room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate.
- Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative's home outside the threatened area.
If You are Asked to Evacuate, Do So
- Take your emergency supply kit.
- Lock your home.
- Tell someone where you are going.
- Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.