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‘Be Wildfire Ready’ campaign begins

‘Be Wildfire Ready’ campaign begins

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The Florida Forest Service and its Chipola Forestry Center have launched a special Be Wildfire Ready campaign in the Panhandle, saying that the massive loss of trees in Hurricane Michael has created an extreme threat of wildfire in its wake.

Nearly half of the state is covered in forestlands, officials say, and when Hurricane Michael tore through this area in October of 2018, it took out more than 2.8 million acres of trees. That’s the equivalent of 2.1 million football fields, agency representatives said.

Many of those downed trees remain on the ground today, they say, and provide potential kindling for wildfire. It’s ready to burn they say, and many households and lands are in a state of amplified threat.

The Be Wildfire Ready campaign is designed to increase the public’s awareness and provide resources that residents and landowners can use to help prevent and prepare for wildfire, including: How to burn yard waste safely, information on how to report suspicious/ arson activity, how to prepare yards and homes to minimize the wildfire hazard, and how to prepare an emergency supply kit.

Resources can be found on the agency’s campaign website, BeWildfireReadyFL.com.

“In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, there is still a threat to life, homes and our communities — a wildfire threat. The exponential volume and density of damaged trees will increase the intensity and speed of wildfires as well as the difficulty of suppressing them,” agency officials said in a press release about the campaign and the need for it.

“While Florida is the lightning capital of the United States, lightning is not the only cause of wildfire in the state. Humans are the leading cause of wildfires in Florida,” officials said.

“There are many tools we can use to help mitigate the chances of a catastrophic wildfire, including creating defensible spaces around our homes, safely burning yard waste, utilizing prescribed burning, and reporting a potential wildfire or suspicious arson activity. Protect your life, home and community by using these tools to Be Wildfire Ready.”

Here’s a look at some of their advice on creating buffering zones around your home.

“Creating and maintaining a buffer around your home (or defensible space) can reduce the threat and spread of wildfire. Defensible space in your yard extends 30 to 100 feet from your home and includes landscaping such as grass, trees, shrubs or any wildland area that surrounds it. Defensible space can slow down or stop the spread of a wildfire because it distances your home from the embers and radiant heat of active wildfires. Your yard can be divided into four zones, each needing different forms of preparation.

Zone 1 — Defensible Space Zone: This extends 30 feet from home, buildings, structures, decks, etc.

To protect this space:

Remove all dead vegetation, including plants, leaves, grass and weeds, from your yard, roof, rain gutters, windows and under decks.

Remove branches that hang over your roof and keep dead branches 10 feet away from your chimney.

Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees to prevent fire spread in the canopies.

Relocate any wood piles to Zone 2.

Create a separation between trees, shrubs and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture, wood piles, swing sets, etc.

Zone 2 — Fuel Reduction Zone: This extends 30–60 feet from home, buildings, structures, decks, etc.

To protect this space:

Cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of 4 inches.

Create horizontal and vertical space between shrubs and trees by removing vegetation and allowing plants to be separated by groundcover.

Remove fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones and small branches.

Zone 3 — Transition Zone: This extends 60–100 feet from home, buildings, structures, decks, etc.

To protect this space:

Create horizontal and vertical space between shrubs and trees by removing vegetation and allowing plants to be separated by groundcover.

Remove or trim low-growing vegetation under pine trees.

Zone 4 — Perimeter Zone: This extends 100 feet from home, buildings, structures, decks, etc., and beyond

To protect this space:

Engage in fuel management practices to reduce the risk of wildfire threats and to protect property.

Be aware of adjacent properties that may be prone to wildfire.

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The Florida Forest Service and its Chipola Forestry Center have launched a special Be Wildfire Ready campaign in the Panhandle, saying that th…

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