Rainy month brings relief, eases worry about fires
Voluntary burn ban lifted after several inches of rain
By Ramsey Campbell | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted March 31, 2005
TAVARES -- March rains have brought relief from dry weather for much of the region, and forestry officials have relaxed a voluntary ban on backyard fires.
George Custer, a fire management officer for the Ocala National Forest, said the rains have eased the fire danger there.
"We've had more rains in March, and the drought index now is low," Custer said Wednesday.
A month ago, however, the drought index was high, and rainfall was scarce.
Heather Danenhower, spokesman for Marion County Fire-Rescue, said conditions then prompted a voluntary burn ban because of a rash of small forest fires. Officials this week decided to lift the ban.
Around Lake County dry conditions eased up considerably this month. The winter months traditionally are the driest, but the first two months of this year were unusually arid.
Tavares received almost 6 inches of rainfall for March, according to the Florida Automated Weather Network at the University of Florida. But in February only about a quarter of an inch was recorded, and in January only a little more than an inch was received.
"For some reason there is usually a little hiccup in March and we get more rain than January or February or even April," said Ron Hart, water-resource director for the Lake County Water Authority.
He said lake levels have been high throughout the county because of excess rainfall that came at the end of 2004.
Water-authority rain gauges showed totals for March ranging from 2.5 inches in south Lake County to nearly 5 inches in the Tavares area.
Lake County urban horticulturist Charles Fedunak said rainfall was heavier the past month, though it was "spotty."
"We've had some people come in saying their plants were flooded. Others said they still needed to water," Fedunak said. "It's just been uneven."
In general, he said, most plants were in decent condition. He said rains that came with the hurricanes that raked Lake County late last summer helped raise the groundwater table.
But those same hurricanes also brought down trees and tree limbs.
Forestry officials say all that extra dead wood would just be kindling to forest fires.
Custer said that while recent rains have brought relief to the national forest in north Lake and south Marion, it could just be temporary.
"All it would take is a couple of weeks without rain and we'd be in trouble again," he said.
And May is historically the height of the forest fire season: "May is the hottest, driest month," Custer said.
The worst fire to strike the national forest was in 1935, when some 35,000 acres were burned in the Big Scrub in less than four hours.
Then in May 1985, some 12,000 acres were burned in a forest fire.
Although many forest fires are triggered by lightning strikes, Marion's temporary fire ban was aimed at limiting backyard fires that often can get out of hand when conditions are dry.
"We wanted to do something to make people more cautious about backyard fires," Danenhower said.
Ramsey Campbell can be reached at email@example.com or 352-742-5923.
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04-04-2005, 08:17 PM #1
Florida...-Rain Eases Fire Danger...For Now09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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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.
04-14-2005, 12:32 AM #2
- Join Date
- Mar 2005
- Ocala, FL Marion County
Just wait till it goes dry again and we get something out here in the National Forest, just hope we don't have another wildfire of 98
04-18-2005, 11:03 AM #3
- Join Date
- Feb 2002
It's getting dry again, we put out a small "grass" fire yesterday. Stoped it as it was going into the woods. People in Florida just don't understand that green doesn't mean that it wont burn.Stay Safe ~ The Dragon Still Bites!
04-24-2005, 10:22 PM #4
Business picking up?
PALM CITY, Fla. (AP) - A brush fire in western Martin County on
Sunday burned barns, cars and fences, but damaged no homes and
caused no serious injuries, officials said.
Firefighters stamped out the last flames of the 75-acre fire
late Sunday in an area dotted with horse ranches and newly built
homes about 35 miles northwest of West Palm Beach.
"I'm still in shock," said Jennifer Cole, 30, whose 70-acre
ranch suffered the most damage. "We've never been through anything
More than half of Cole's property was engulfed by flames, which
damaged several cars, a new $25,000 travel-trailer, a shed and
several horse trailers.
Fire officials said the fire started Saturday afternoon, in a
nature preserve west of Interstate 95. It spread across the
interstate and jumped across wetlands and canals. A section of the
highway was shut down in both directions for several hours.
Up to 80 firefighters from Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach
counties worked the fire, Battalion Chief Hoss Wiggins told The
Palm Beach Post.
Two Martin County firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation
and fatigue Saturday, but there were no serious injuries or deaths,
fire officials said. At least two pole barns, several vehicles and
fences were destroyed.
Authorities are investigating the fire's cause.
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