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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Rain does little to dampen fire threat in Florida

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 7:12 AM

click to enlarge A brushfire burns near Highway 50 outside Titusville, March 15 - PHOTO BY JOEY ROULETTE
  • Photo by Joey Roulette
  • A brushfire burns near Highway 50 outside Titusville, March 15
Rain over the weekend helped slow the growth of wildfires in some parts of Florida, but other blazes continued to grow, especially in the southern part of the state.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and the Florida Forest Service said Monday the state had 127 active wildfires. Forest Service Director Jim Karels said the weekend rain was welcome, as it allowed many firefighters to strengthen their fire lines. However, he said the rainfall was scattered, and much of the state still has drought conditions.

“Once you get into the peninsula, it's very dry,” Karels said. “Getting an inch of rain as an example, and being 10 inches behind, doesn't catch you up. We've still got a ways to go.”

More than 20 counties, from the Florida-Georgia state line to the Florida Keys are considered to have “very high” fire dangers, according to a state index of danger levels. Local burn bans are in place in over half of the state's 67 counties.

Two teams of firefighters and equipment came from South Carolina last week, and they continue to assist local crews in South Florida.

“Even with rain across large parts of Florida over the weekend, Florida is still experiencing drought conditions and elevated wildfire danger —- and will continue to for some time,” Putnam said in a prepared statement. “Residents and visitors need to pay attention to and comply with local burn bans and should take every precaution to help prevent wildfire.”

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