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  1. #1
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Florida--Recent Wildfires Signal Start of What Promises to be Busy Season

    Wildfire warning signal
    With start of dangerous season, homeowners should be prepared


    Firefighters saved five North Port homes threatened Wednesday by a wildfire that roared across 130 acres.

    We join the residents in appreciation of the quick response of firefighters from throughout the region. We also urge them, and all residents in and near Southwest Florida's wooded areas, to learn of the dangers and of the ways to protect themselves.

    On Wednesday, North Port firefighters were the first to act, of course. But when the wind caused the blaze to spread, a call for additional help went out. Florida's Division of Forestry and departments from Charlotte County, Englewood, Sarasota County and Nokomis fought the region's first big wildfire of the season.

    The fire crackled through the pines and palm trees of open country east of I-75. Dark smoke limited visibility on the interstate. A stretch was closed for three hours.

    Apprehensive homeowners downwind watched and waited. In the end, it was a close call for only five households.

    North Port residents, no doubt, will talk with each other this weekend about the fine job by firefighters. Newcomers will hear that in the spring of 2001, more than a dozen fires erupted in and around North Port, and that others have flared up since then.



    When such talks occur, in North Port and elsewhere, it would behoove the residents to discuss how they can help protect themselves by clearing brush from around homes, for example, and landscaping with fire-retardant plants.

    Local firefighters can recommend prevention strategies. Additional information, through Sarasota County's "Firewise" program, is available on the county's Web site.
    Last edited by captstanm1; 04-28-2003 at 07:00 PM.
    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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    Default

    Worries low for season of blazes

    By Alicia A. Caldwell | Sentinel Staff Writer
    Posted April 28, 2003

    The last time El Niño wreaked havoc on Florida's normally dry winter weather a La Niña weather pattern followed, and the result was devastating.

    About 500,000 acres burned statewide, leaving behind a nearly $400 million price tag for damages and the cost of putting out the huge blazes. The 1998 fires also left a fear that another El Niño, like that seen this past winter, would usher in another catastrophic wildfire season.

    But Florida Department of Forestry officials say there may be little to fear this year, despite a "red flag alert" for high fire danger issued for a day last week by the National Weather Service.

    Jim Brenner, a state forestry official, said that so far much of the state has only reaped the benefits from El Niño -- higher than average rainfall during normally dry winter months.

    The apparent absence of La Niña, or the second in a one-two weather punch that created such fire-favorable conditions in 1998, also has given fire forecasters reason to think that this fire season will be relatively tame.

    "Although we had a wet winter, which we had the same in 1998, we went from an El Niño to a La Niña then," Bunnell District Manager Mike Kuypers said.

    "Our meteorologists are saying now that we are going into a neutral phase. From the experience they have, they say we'll have a very normal start" to the fire season.

    Last week's "red flag alert" was issued because a trough of cooler, dry air moved over Central Florida, said Bob Wimmer, a weather-service forecaster. He said the warning was "very temporary." And it was lifted later the same day.

    In 1998, La Niña -- a weather pattern that causes drought-like conditions and brings with it extended periods of relative humidity levels at or below 40 percent -- suddenly emerged, and the state saw extended periods of rainless days.

    Brenner said rapidly cooling water in the Pacific Ocean and lower-than-normal relative humidity levels made La Niña's presence known, and the lack of moisture created pockets of dry brush and grass that ignited easily and burned with tremendous force.

    Brenner and others have been watching for a repeat of those conditions, which he said was "just like someone turned off the fountain" when El Niño dissipated and La Niña kicked in.

    So far, Brenner said, conditions look favorable for the state.

    Wimmer said the recent alert was not indicative of the season's overall forecast but rather the daily conditions.

    Bart Hagemeyer, a weather-service meteorologist, said there is no evidence that La Niña or any other drought-inducing weather patterns are forecast for Florida this year. In fact, the summer's rainy season may bring higher-than-normal precipitation for parts of the state, Hagemeyer said.

    Scott Goodrick, a research meteorologist for the U.S. Forest Service in Georgia, said El Niño should bring with it "well-below-normal fire activity" and described the 1998 fires as a "very rare event. I wouldn't expect anything out of the ordinary."

    While the winter rain may not have been welcomed in such flooded areas as Deltona, the added moisture did allow forestry officials to ignite several controlled burns around Central Florida that are likely to help quell wildfires later this fire season, Kuypers said.

    "We burned close to 4,000 acres, which is a lot more that we have" burned in recent years, Kuypers said. "We finally got enough water on the ground that we felt we could safely burn. Now, we have areas where the fuel load is fairly low. We could have a much better chance of stopping [fires] if they get to those areas."

    Some small brush fires, including small fires in Volusia and Brevard counties last week, have already been reported this fire season. Kuypers said that is normal, and small fires like that can be expected through the end of Florida's natural fire season, which ends in June.

    "Normal means we are going to have fire," Kuypers said. "It's a positive aspect that we don't anticipate a real severe outbreak in fires."

    Alicia A. Caldwell can be reached at acaldwell@orlandosentinel.com or 386-851-7924.
    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 Follow Up News Story

    Experts: Wildfire peril not like 1998 threat


    Associated Press

    Last update: 29 April 2003


    ORLANDO -- State forestry officials are drawing parallels between this past rainy winter and a similar one in 1998, but do not anticipate seeing a reprise of the devastating wildfires that torched more than a half-million acres of Florida forest that year.

    Drought conditions in much of the state were eased by the El Nino weather phenomenon this winter, which brought higher rainfall totals.

    But unlike in 1998, El Nino apparently is not being followed by La Nina -- a drought-causing system marked by hot, dry air that leads to ideal conditions for wildfires.

    "We are going to have fire," Mike Kuypers, the Bunnell District Manager for the Florida Division of Forestry, told The Orlando Sentinel. "It's a positive aspect that we don't anticipate a real severe outbreak in fires."

    Through Saturday, 951 fires this year had burned nearly 8,900 acres of Florida forest, according to the state agriculture department's forestry division.

    There were 3,065 wildfires in Florida last year, causing 56,835 acres to be burned -- the third-lowest total statewide since 1983. By comparison, 403,737 acres statewide were burnt during 2001.

    And 506,970 acres burnt in 1998, with forecasters saying La Nina was mainly to blame. Scott Goodrick, a research meteorologist for the U.S. Forest Service in Georgia, described the 1998 fires as a "very rare event."

    "I wouldn't expect anything out of the ordinary" for 2003, Goodrick said.

    The devastating summer of 1998 was the worst fire season since 1989, when 645,531 acres burned in 7,291 fires.

    Florida's wildfire season normally runs from December through June.

    ------
    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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