TALLAHASSEE — On Feb. 25, the Florida Forest Service announced the launch of a wildfire prevention initiative aimed at educating residents impacted by Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle. The “Be Wildfire Ready” campaign is designed to increase the public’s awareness of how they can help prevent and prepare for a wildfire.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, there is still a threat to life, homes and communities – a wildfire threat. More than 2.8 million trees were destroyed during the October 2018 Category 5 storm and much remains on the ground today, ready to burn.
“Our Panhandle communities are part of the wildland-urban interface, areas that are near forests and wooded areas, which increases the wildfire threat,” said Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “It is absolutely critical for residents to be vigilant and educate themselves on wildfire prevention. Together, we can work toward protecting these communities from any further devastation.”
While the public focuses on their part to prevent and prepare, FFS wildland firefighters are ready to respond to wildfires that are unavoidable. However, fighting wildfires in the Florida Panhandle is not the same following Michael’s unprecedented destruction.
“The exponential volume and density of damaged trees have already proven to increase the intensity and speed of wildfires as well as the difficulty of suppressing them,” said John Raulerson, FFS Chief of Forest Protection. “Many wildfires are requiring multiple tractors and crews. Responding to more frequent and intense wildfires will call for the highest level of coordinated emergency response efforts.”
While Florida is the lightning capital of the Unites States, humans are the leading cause of wildfires in the state. In 2020, the Florida Forest Service responded to a total of 1,970 wildfires that burned over 44,150 acres. Of those, 254 wildfires were in counties impacted by Hurricane Michael and burned more than 3,100 acres.
Visit BeWildfireReadyFL.com to view tools and tips for how to safely burn yard waste, create defensible space around your home, prepare an emergency supply kit and more. Local Florida Forest Service officials are also available to host virtual events, offering residents and communities opportunities to receive more information on wildfire prevention and preparation.