Experts predict ‘overactive’ fire season in SWFL

“I’m ready for vacation. My brain’s worn out. It’s been a long year.”

Bobby Smitz is still recovering from hurricane season after Irma ripped his orange grove to shreds, wiping out nearly 90 percent of his crop.

“That was rough,” Smitz said. “We had a lot of tree damage and lost a lot of fruit in the hurricane.”

He now has a new force of nature to worry about—wildfires.

Last weekend, the Greenway fire came within one mile of his business. But he says they’re prepared as they can be, with a makeshift tractor that sprays out water.

“We can put out these hoses and put out spot fires in the grove if we need to,” he said.

Trying to recover from one natural disaster and be on standby for another is exhausting—for Smitz and for firefighters.

So far this year in SWFL, the Florida Forest Service has responded to 14 fires. Last year, it was more than double that at 40 fires.

Cold weather fronts and rain have helped kick off this year to a slow start. But experts say SWFL is not out of the woods yet.

The fire outlook depends on mother nature, and when rainy season decides to begin. Experts add that this season could be an overactive one—and combined with a drought, making for uncertain conditions.

Reporter:Olivia Mancino
Writer:Erica Brown
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