CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Roughly a year ago, nearly 8,000 burned in the Golden Gate Estates, as a massive wildfire ripped through the community.
Fast forward to 2021, as we prepare for wildfire season here in Southwest Florida, Melinda Avni with Florida Forest Service says, numbers show it’s getting dryer here in the sunshine state.
“We’re sitting at about 424 for Collier County right now and on average, for the 3 counties, it's about 409. So, it's getting dryer, and once that drought kicks up to about 500, we start to get very concerned, that means our surface fuels are very dry, our trees are very dry. While there is still moisture in the soil, and above the water table level so we know we can reach it easily, it's not necessarily staying in the trees,” said Avni.
Avni says trees, no matter the size, along with debris can add fuel to the flames.
“It doesn’t look like much but what’s behind us shows exactly what we're talking about. This area here goes from 1-hour fuels to 100 hours fuels, If you look around and see more of the larger trees, you’re getting more to 1000-hour fuels,” said Avni.
Now while it may be tough to go and inspect every tree, or blade of grass to determine a fuel level, Avni says, simply start by securing your home.
‘The ember zone is basically anything a mile from the fire. So if you're within a mile of undeveloped or wildland area, there’s a chance that a wildfire should erupt there, the embers from that can impact your home. So, keep that checked, keep that defensible space, that first 5ft is crucial, ideally you want 30ft. Don’t have trees very close together, don't have them right against your home, keep that grass cut neat,” said Avni.
Right now, the biggest concern for Florida Forest Service is patterns show they are moving into more of a fire year and away from a fire season. Avni says after securing your home if you need a second opinion, Florida Forest Service is ready to take your call.
“We can come out, we can take a look, we can tell them what their actual risks are. We can point them to some resources that could help them make some changes to improve their outcomes,” said Avni.
For more information on how to get in contact with the Florida Forest Service, head to their website.