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  1. #1
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Florida Needs Rain--Wildfires Popping Up

    This one will be rather long since there are several stories relating to Wildfires across the state. There has been some periods of locally heavy rain, but winds and low humidity are drying out the area.

    ST.PETERSBURG TIMES-NORTH PINELLAS

    Copter may set fires in preserve
    Using the aircraft would provide better access to both larger and more remote areas of the Brooker Creek Preserve for controlled burns.

    By RICHARD DANIELSON, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 18, 2003

    EAST LAKE -- County and state officials hope to use a helicopter to start controlled fires on as much as 500 acres in the Brooker Creek Preserve during the next month.

    The idea is to clear part of the 8,500-acre nature preserve of dry brush that could feed an uncontrolled wildfire later on.

    "We had proposed that last year, and the weather didn't cooperate, so it's back on the table for this year," said Craig Huegel, the preserve manager and administrator of Pinellas County's division of environmental lands.

    The area to be burned consists mostly of pine flat woods in the south-central part of the preserve, south of Ridgemoor Boulevard. Depending on conditions, officials would burn the area in phases over one to three days.

    "We're not intending to burn 500 acres at once," Huegel said Monday.

    A key factor in going forward with the plan will be the availability of a helicopter to drop the incendiary balls, said Mike Perry, a forest area supervisor for the state Division of Forestry. He said he is looking into using one of the forestry division's four or five helicopters or perhaps using one that belongs to state game officials.

    As of Monday afternoon, officials did not know when they might get the helicopter. They said the Brooker Creek burns could take place any time until March 15.

    "We feel like if we don't get it done between now and middle of March we won't get it done," Perry said.

    There is a lot of demand now for the aircraft because December's unusually heavy rains threw off plans for controlled burns in many parts of the state.

    Using a helicopter to start the fires would allow officials to burn larger areas than they could by working only on the ground. It also would enable them to reach more remote areas of the preserve.

    "It's a very hard area to burn because we don't have a lot of roads in that part of the preserve," Huegel said.

    Not only that, but the pine woods are largely surrounded by swamps and other wetlands. That's good for the burn, because there is standing water there now, officials said. When the flames reach that water, they will stop. County officials also will have their wild land fire team, which has more than 50 members, standing by to make sure the fires are contained.

    Forestry officials nationwide have used helicopters to start controlled burns for years. The helicopters drop pingpong ball-sized spheres, each filled with a combustible combination of ethylene glycol, the scientific term for antifreeze, and potassium permanganate. The glycol is injected into the balls just before they are dropped, and the resulting chemical reaction ignites the balls about the time they hit the ground.

    Depending on factors that include the height from which the balls are dropped and the amount of fuel to be burned, the state helicopter might drop 500 to 1,000 balls per acre, Perry said. The goal is to start a lot of little fires that burn into each other and run out of fuel before they become too intense.

    The last time the state did an aerial burn in Pinellas County was in the late 1980s or early 1990s at Boyd Hill Nature Park in St. Petersburg, Perry said.

    -- Richard Danielson can be reached at (727) 445-4194 or danielson@sptimes.com .
    _________________


    SUN-HERALD (Charlotte County)
    New Fire/EMS truck tackling remote brush fires


    With brush fire season off to a slow start, Charlotte County Fire & EMS has only had one chance to show what its new brush truck can do.

    A former military transport truck converted to fight fires in remote areas, the brush truck goes where regular fire engines can't, according to Fire Chief Dennis DiDio.

    "Engines are made for cities," he said, "not dirt trails ... (The brush truck) can go through the palmettos to get to the head of the fire."

    The brush truck's baptism came last Thursday during a small half-acre brush fire in the woods around Bayshore Road in Charlotte Harbor. Fronted by a steel-and-pipe brush guard, the truck mowed down small trees to get near the source of the flames, allowing firefighters to douse the blaze before it could spread.

    Without the truck, firefighters would have to connect hoses together to reach deep into the brush, DiDio said.

    But the biggest advantage is having a heavy-duty truck that can tackle inaccessible fires, allowing other engines to focus on protecting houses.

    The truck carries a 30-gallon foam cell and a 720-gallon water tank. The pump has its own gas tank separate from the truck's, so that if the truck loses power, firefighters can still protect a structure or the vehicle itself from encroaching flames, according to Gary Kleynen, the battalion chief in charge of vehicle maintenance.

    A second brush truck should be ready for service in about two months.

    Both trucks were given to the department by the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, which secured them through a federal military surplus program.

    Some manufacturers are producing brush trucks for around $150,000, but the department spent only a fraction of that.

    The department only had to pay about $5,000 to hire a flatbed truck to haul the vehicles from Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz., where they were slated for target practice in a bombing exercise.

    Though the department has had the trucks for two years, the chief has waited to use them until all the proper modifications could be made, Kleynen said.

    "We had to move the fuel tanks and some other things that hung low and move them up into the frame," he said.

    The department has a third transport truck, donated by Charlotte County Emergency Management, but it will be used to evacuate residents during floods.

    DiDio said the trucks will be getting a workout around March and April, traditionally the busiest months for brush fires.

    "We have been getting some brush fires," he said. "The frost we had dried a lot of water from the ground."

    DiDio said the trucks can also handle non-fire emergencies in remote areas, like plane crashes and all-terrain vehicle accidents.

    You can e-mail Garry Overbey at overbey@sun-herald.com

    By GARRY OVERBEY
    Staff Writer

    ___________________
    THE LEDGER.COM (POLK COUNTY)

    Fire Crews Battle Series of Polk Wildfires

    By Bill Bair
    The Ledger
    billbair1@aol.com

    FROSTPROOF -- Division of Forestry and Polk County fire crews were working a series of four or five wildfires near West Frostproof on Tuesday afternoon. The fires appeared to have been deliberately set.

    Mark Hebb of the Division of Forestry said there were homes in the area of the fires, but none were in immediate danger.

    Hebb said the first call about a wildfire came about 3 p.m., but by the time crews arrived there were several others burning in the area.

    He said the largest fire was about four acres.

    "It looks like a traditional case of arson," Hebb said.

    Hebb said the fires were located south of U.S. 98, about two miles west of the Polk County jail facility.

    Hebb said there was no other wildfire activity in Polk County Tuesday.

    Recent rains helped curtail fire activity around Polk County, but Hebb said the fire danger will be increasing today.

    He said the forecast calls for low humidity and a strong northwest wind.

    While Polk County is considerably wetter than it has been the past several years, Hebb said grass and other vegetation killed by January freezes and frosts provide a great deal of fuel for wildfires.

    He urged residents doing any outdoor burning to use extreme caution, noting that residents can be held responsible for damage caused by fires they set, as well as the cost of extinguishing them and fines.

    Bill Bair can be reached at billbair1@aol.com or 863-6767118.
    __________________
    THE LEDGER.COM (Related Story to Above)

    Wildfires May Have Been Deliberately Set

    By Bill Bair
    The Ledger
    billbair1@aol.com

    FROSTPROOF -- Division of Forestry and Polk County fire crews were working a series of four or five wildfires near West Frostproof on Tuesday afternoon. The fires appeared to have been deliberately set.

    Mark Hebb of the Division of Forestry said there were homes in the area of the fires, but none were in immediate danger.

    Hebb said the first call about a wildfire came about 3 p.m., but by the time crews arrived there were several others burning in the area.

    He said the largest fire was about four acres.

    "It looks like a traditional case of arson," Hebb said.

    Hebb said the fires were located south of U.S. 98, about two miles west of the Polk County jail facility.

    Hebb said there was no other wildfire activity in Polk County Tuesday.

    Recent rains helped curtail fire activity around Polk County, but Hebb said the fire danger will be increasing today.

    He said the forecast calls for low humidity and a strong northwest wind.

    While Polk County is considerably wetter than it has been the past several years, Hebb said grass and other vegetation killed by January freezes and frosts provide a great deal of fuel for wildfires.

    He urged residents doing any outdoor burning to use extreme caution, noting that residents can be held responsible for damage caused by fires they set, as well as the cost of extinguishing them and fines.

    Bill Bair can be reached at billbair1@aol.com or 863-676-7118.
    ___________________

    DADE CITY FLORIDA (Pasco County)

    Fire Crews battled a fire late Wednesday of last week outside Dade City. The fire which was started from and illegal burn reached a recylcing yard and kept firefighters on the scene for several hours.
    _________________________

    DAYTONA BEACH NEWS JOURNAL

    2 acres of brush burn near Osteen

    STAFF REPORT
    Last updated: Feb 17, 03:27 AM

    OSTEEN -- A wildfire fueled by stiff winds burned nearly two acres of brush near Osteen on Sunday afternoon.
    Units from three Volusia County fire stations were called to Budd Road, off State Road 415 northeast of Deltona, to battle the blaze.

    The one-acre fire nearly doubled in size before it could be contained and extinguished, said fire services spokeswoman Michelle Coats. The cause of the fire was unknown late Sunday afternoon, according to Coats.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.


  2. #2
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post DOF tries to stay ahead of the danger with Prescribed Burns

    STUART NEW.COM

    Controlled fire sets 296 acres ablaze at park
    The controlled burn at Atlantic Ridge State Park was intended to protect nearby residents by eliminating the potential for wildfires.

    By Gabriel Margasak staff writer
    February 19, 2003

    HOBE SOUND ó The smoke plume could be seen as far away as Jensen Beach ó but this fire was a good one.

    Florida Park Service officials Tuesday conducted a 296-acre controlled burn in the Atlantic Ridge State Park, west of U.S. 1 between Cove and Bridge roads.

    "We had just the right window for the weather. We had the right wind, the right humidity, all those factors came into place. All the rain we had recently helped out quite a bit," said Bill Haluska, a park services specialist at the burn.

    By Tuesday afternoon, he said, "Everything's going good. At this point we're starting to do mop up."

    It was the second recent burn in the park and more are planned in the near future, including 600 acres of the 5,700 acres of the state land. However, the exact timing will depend on the right weather conditions.

    Haluska said the controlled burns play an invaluable part in protecting Florida's ecology and residents alike, citing the park's neighboring housing developments.

    "This is actually a safety precaution for them," he said. "With us doing prescribed burning, it cuts down significantly on the chances of there being a catastrophic wildfire."

    Smoke from Tuesdays burn probably will be gone by today, and park service officials said they would be monitoring the area all night.

    - gabriel.margasak@scripps.com
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  3. #3
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Prescribed Burns

    Local News...Florida Today

    Controlled burns keep people safe

    By Enrique Heredero
    FLORIDA TODAY


    PALM BAY-- Jack Parker likes to explain that the benefits of controlled burns far outweigh the temporary inconvenience of smoke and unsightly burned areas along the side of the road.
    Sandy Carnival, biologist at Tosohatchee State Preserve, uses a drop torch to start a controlled burn at Hightower Beach Park in Satellite Beach. Image copyright © 2003, Rik Jesse, FLORIDA TODAY

    In fact, complaints dwindled noticeably after the 1998 wildfires, said Parker, public safety director for Brevard Fire-Rescue.

    "1998 proves the value of continuous controlled burns. It's a necessary evil to keep people safe," Parker said.

    This year the Division of Forestry will burn 4,000 acres of dry vegetation in Brevard before nature or people have a chance to set them ablaze, said Orlando Dominguez, spokesman for Brevard Fire-Rescue.

    Controlled burns -- also called prescribed burns -- are used primarily to rid areas of flammable vegetation that can cause wildfires. Fire officials examine a brushy area to calculate how much needs to be burned.

    Forestry workers will come back to the area and light a test fire. Then, they'll set a can of gas and diesel mix on fire, pour fire on the ground and make sure the wind will move the fire in the right direction.

    Ron Weis, senior forest ranger at the Division of Forestry, said the most common causes of wildfires are arson, debris burning and lightning. Other causes can be broken powerlines, locomotive wheels that generate sparks and even the rare case of a carelessly flicked cigarette.

    Because of the potential for accidental fires, Weis said people should avoid burning their trash.

    Lightning accounts for 40 percent of all brush fires annually, Weis said. Usually, lightning fires--which are normal-- are left alone if they occur beyond any homes or communities.

    "If they occur way out, we let nature takes its course, but if the fire is close to homes, we have to put it out. Sometimes, we can cause more damage to the environment by putting out the fire than the fire itself," Weis said.

    "If you go back thousands of years, the natural cycle was for brush to burn every three years to clear the underbrush to keep an environment that's open, which makes for a good habitat for animals."

    Controlled burns also have environmental purposes. Sometimes, burns will take place to benefit wildlife habitats that thrive on heat, such as scrub jays.

    Despite their usefulness, Parker said controlled burns still have to be done with much caution so they don't go out of control. Weather has to be just right, because a windy day can easily cause a prescribed burn to get out of control.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  4. #4
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Follow Up

    NAPLES DAILY NEWS


    Wildfire season back on the front burner thanks to lack of rainfall

    Wednesday, March 5, 2003

    By CHAD GILLIS, cegillis@naplesnews.com



    The wildfire season has started slowly this year, but local fire experts are hoping two dry months aren't going to spark a rash of blazes in rural areas of Southwest Florida.

    January and February produced less than 40 percent of the normal rainfall for Southwest Florida, according to the South Florida Water Management District.

    Low rainfall coupled with a build-up of decomposing plant material over the last few years has fire watchers like Jerry LaCavera keeping a close eye on the drought index and weather forecasts.

    "We have in the last month began to see a pick-up in activity. It's mostly been in Lehigh Acres and south Golden Gate Estates," said LaCavera, a wildfire mitigation specialist with the state Division of Forestry. "We went into the dry season thinking we'd get more rain than normal, but we've been getting below-normal rainfall so far."

    Fire is a natural segment of Florida's ecology. It's essential for the reproduction of certain plants and trees. Over the last couple of years, fires have been more sporadic and less frequent than during the late 1990s, causing a build-up of dry and dead vegetation.

    The Keetch-Byram Drought Index shows Lee and Collier counties to be fairly wet. Lee County's index is 296 with Collier's slightly higher at 309. The index measures the moisture in soil and decomposing organic matter. It ranges from 0 for very wet to 800 for very dry.

    Those figures can be misleading, though, LaCavera, said.

    "The drought index undershoots the fuel moisture," LaCavera said. "It's showing conditions to be wetter than they really are."

    Golden Gate firefighters are well accustomed to raging blazes. The rural Collier County area typically gets the brunt of Southwest Florida fires.

    Golden Gate Fire and Rescue Control District spokesman Victor Hill said although the district hasn't received any special notices from the state, fire chiefs are watching the drought index and rainfall closely.

    "It's something that this department has to keep a constant watch for," Hill said. "We're not on any heightened alert status, but we are paying attention to it. We've got everything ready."

    Firefighters at the Bonita Springs Fire and Rescue Control District are also keeping an eye on wildfire factors.

    Deputy Fire Chief Ken Craft said although the Bonita Springs area has been void of major fires recently, the potential for ravaging flames keeps district firefighters alert. Most of Bonita's fire problems are in the rural areas east of the interstate.

    "The season is starting to get dry and the wind is starting to pick up," Craft said. "And there's some fuel there from last year."

    Forecasters at the National Weather Service are predicting increased rainfall throughout the remainder of the dry season, which runs through May.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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