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Severe drought conditions across SWFL requires vigilance to prevent fires

During the dry season, we’ve seen brush fires pop up across Southwest Florida. Now, the forestry service is warning about human-caused fires, because you don’t have to light a match to start a fire.

Towering flames is a sight no one wants to encounter near their home.

Already this year, fires caused homes to be evacuated in Charlotte County and destroyed more than 3,500 rental cars at Southwest Florida International Airport.

And smaller fires have popped up in Lehigh Acres, Hendry County, and Collier County.

With dry weather, it doesn’t take much to spark trouble.

Melinda Avni, a mitigation specialist with the Florida Forest Service, said, “We want people to be aware of the likelihood of wildfire. We haven’t had our major onset of rain yet.”

Avni keeps tabs on wildfires locally and across the state.

We’ve had nearly 80 so far in our area this year, and she says, “Human-caused fires are more than nine out of ten wildfires, so please be extra cautious.”

This includes avoiding parking vehicles on grass, grilling or cooking out too close to a home or under overhanging tree branches.

That’s especially important since most of our area is experiencing a moderate to severe drought.

“If you had a cooking fire or a fire pit and you’ve left it unattended, or maybe you just let it burn down and you consider it out, it’s not really out, you need to get some water on that, get some sand on it, stir it around, turn it over, keep it wet,” Avni explained.

She says it’s about looking out for one another, “We know times are a little trying, we’re a little anxious, a little stir crazy, it’s very easy in the rush of getting back to normal to get a little ahead of ourselves.”

To keep ourselves and our community safe.

There are also water restrictions in place for parts of Southwest Florida because of our dry conditions.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District enacted a Phase I water shortage restrictions going in effect May 12, 2020 through July 1, 2020, except where stricter measures have been imposed by local governments.

Phase I water shortage restrictions apply to portions of Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.


Below are restrictions that apply to all parts of Lee County except for the City of Cape Coral:

Even-numbered addresses (based on the last number of the address) may only irrigate on Sundays. That includes locations with irrigation systems that irrigate both even and odd-numbered addresses within the same zones, such as multi-family units and homeowners’ associations, and rights-of-way or other locations with no address.

Odd-numbered addresses (based on the last number of the address) may only irrigate on Wednesdays.

All landscape irrigation is prohibited between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to reduce evaporation.

Cape Coral:

  • For existing installations less than five irrigated acres, landscape irrigation shall be restricted for all types of irrigation, as set forth below: Locations with an address that ends in 0 may only irrigate on Monday from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m.
  • Locations with an address that ends in 1 may only irrigate on Friday from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Locations with an address that ends in 2 may only irrigate on Thursday from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m.
  • Locations with an address that ends in 3 may only irrigate on Wednesday from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m.
  • Locations with an address that ends in 4 may only irrigate on Sunday from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m.
  • Locations with an address that ends in 5 may only irrigate on Saturday from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m.
  • Locations with an address that ends in 6 may only irrigate on Thursday from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Locations with an address that ends in 7 may only irrigate on Wednesday from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Locations with an address that ends in 8 may only irrigate on Sunday from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Locations with an address that ends in 9 may only irrigate on Saturday from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.

MORE: Lee County Irrigation Restrictions

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Derrick Shaw
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