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SWFL officials expect busy brush fire season thanks to heat, drought

Several fires have popped up in SWFL this week
Posted at 6:55 PM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 05:53:43-04

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — Near-record heat and not a lot of rain - it’s a combination that’s already led to several wildfires throughout Southwest Florida in the past few days.

Local fire officials say that the weather has just been a lot hotter and a lot drier than we normally see this time of year.

That’s led to situations like the one in the CREW Wildlife area in Bonita Springs, where local fire departments have been fighting brush fires for the past four days.

And they don’t expect the fire danger to go away any time soon.

“Mother Nature’s not helping us out at all this time of year,” said Greg DeWitt, fire chief of the Bonita Springs Fire Department.

The combination of near-record temperatures and drought conditions has kept DeWitt’s crews busy. The wildfires in the Flint Pen Strand Wildlife area, which happen to be less than a mile from Bonita Springs Fire Station No. 26, have burned for four days.

“We haven’t had fires like this (in Bonita) for three to four years,” DeWitt said.

That’s because this year’s weather patterns have been unique.

“We’re drier than where were last year, considerably drier,” said Ryan Mason, area supervisor for the Florida Forest Service. “Usually this is when we move into dry season, but we’re at that point now.”

The Florida Forest Service is helping with the Bonita Springs fires.

The current 30-acre fire is separate from the 120-acre blaze that started Saturday. This one popped up on Monday evening, and crews continued to make sure it’s contained because high winds are expected later this week, and that can spread the flames even more.

While this week’s heat doesn’t help, neither did this winter’s cold.

Fire Chief DeWitt said the freeze we experienced a few months back created more kindling for the flames, which led to an early start of the brushfire season.

“We already know it’s drier, now it’s dead and dry,” DeWitt said. “When we have a bad freeze it tends to ramp things up little more for us. Instead of a slow dry out, it’s dry from the get-go from the freeze on.”

Fire officials are asking everyone to do what they can to prevent fires like this. That includes closely monitoring any outdoor heat source, and putting out any flames completely before you leave them.