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Officials watching fire danger during cold weather

Posted at 6:41 PM, Jan 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-03 18:41:00-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Officials are keeping an eye out for outdoor and indoor fires, as temperatures dip into the low 40's Wednesday.

During a cold front in December, 4 In Your Corner reported on a number of fires, including an indoor fire at an abandoned Fort Myers church. Neighbors believe squatters caused the fire while trying to keep warm. 

According to Fort Myers Police Captain Jay Rodriguez, the incident is not out of the ordinary during cold temperatures. Because of this, his team takes extra precautions. "We get a lot of calls for fires that come up, or trash burning, stuff like that. We understand that people are trying to stay warm, especially our homeless population," he said. "We're keeping more of a vigilant eye on some of our abandoned buildings and our houses that are usually boarded up."

Should police find anyone seeking refuge in an abandoned structure, they plan to take them to a shelter. "We're not out there to be enforcers, to kick you and and to arrest you. It's more to get you to one of the open shelters so you have a warm place to stay," Captain Rodriguez said.

Those who want to start fires outdoors or recreationally are allowed to do so. However, Cape Coral Fire Department Public Information Officer, Andrea Schuch, recommends to follow safety guidelines. "You want to make sure you're at least 25 feet from a structure, and you want to make sure you have a source of extinguishment," she said.

Schuch also advised those who want to start outdoor fires to do so in a fire pit, with clean cut wood to reduce smoke.