LEE COUNTY, Fla. - We're nearing the end of wildfire season and because of a wet winter, southwest Florida has had dramatically fewer brush fires. But that doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet.
The soil around here is wet. It may be the only thing keeping the dry grass and dead vegetation killed by the cold temperatures from going up in flames. “Typically this map which is an indicator of drought conditions would show some very bright oranges and red, indicating a dry soil layer,” said WINK Chief Meteorologist Jim Farrell. “That's not in place right now due to the El Nino winter that we had.
That doesn't mean we're immune to blazes. A 650-acre brush fire tore through Immokalee in February, even after days of heavy rain. And back in 1998, conditions were similar to now. The season started very wet, but when things suddenly dried, the fires lit up.
”It's wet, wetter than normal, we've had more rain than we normally get this time of year, and what ends up happening is that creates a false sense of complacency among the residents,” Victor Hill, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, said.
Compared to this time last year, we've only seen about half as many brush fires. but don't let the moist soil fool you. Hill says all of this could change in a matter of a few dry weeks. “The wind, the way that it's blowing, it's not going to take much to dry a lot of that surface vegetation out and light it up if someone is careless,” Hill said.
Hill says the key is to take responsibility for your property. Irrigate your lawn. Keep it clear of all dead vegetation, and have clearance of at least 30 feet around your home.