Conditions in Fla. favorable for more wildfires

- The smell of smoke is in downtown Orlando.

On Sunday, a brush fire caused a part of State Road 528 to be shut down between Orlando and the Space Coast. A fire burned last week near the north-central Florida town of Bunnell and another one destroyed 10 homes near Jacksonville.

Parts of Florida are under a drought, and firefighters worry that dry conditions, strong winds and low humidity are increasing the chances of wildfires.

The Orlando Sentinel (http://bit.ly/2nTGx8d ) reports that Florida has seen about 30 percent more fires in the first three months of 2017 than the year before,

Forest Ranger Mike Facente of the Florida Forest Service said there have been 1,000 wildfires in Florida so far this year, compared to 700 fires from January to March last year. So far in 2017, 46,000 acres have burned, compared to 12,900 acres during the same period last year.

"With the conditions right now with these winds, (fire) hits the ground and it's gone," Facente said.

Firefighters, landowners and farmer typically conduct prescribed burns to eliminate vegetation that could fuel a wildfire.

But the Forest Service last week temporarily stopped authorizing the controlled burns because of the dry conditions. The Forest Service will likely begin authorizing planned burns again once the state gets at least another inch of rain, Facente said.

The Forest Service recommends keeping some water nearby when burning anything outside and also not burning on windy days. The service also recommends keeping vegetation away from homes.

No Central Florida counties are currently under burn bans, which are issued by county governments, but residents should use caution, Facente said.

"We need a lot of self-awareness right now," Facente said. "Be mindful of your barbecue grills and don't leave fires unattended."

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Information from: Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/

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