Across our region, there are 21-active wildfires officials are fighting or keeping an eye on. Experts say we could be in for a very active fire season, and it could be worse than last year.
Since January, 76 wildfires have burned through Citrus, Sumter, Lake, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Hillsborough Counties.
Including a Monday afternoon blaze that sparked from an unattended burn pit in Shady Hills.
The fast-moving fire scorched about an acre, but thankfully crews knocked it down before the flames reached any houses.
“Oh yeah, we never had a fire like this, ever,” said Jan Summers.
The Brookesville woman is counting her blessings after Friday’s brush fire.
Crews plowed lines to stop the spread, and even used the water from the Summers’ pool to fight the flames.
“The hot ash hit the solar on the roof and burned holes in it, and then the solar leaked and protected our roof from burning,” Summers said.
They were one of the lucky ones. The 110-acre fire damaged three homes, forcing one family out of their house.
It was the start of a busy few days for fire fighters and the Florida Forest Service.
“Currently, in this district alone, I have 16 active wildfires that we’re either monitoring or mopping up,” Judith Tear from the Withlacoochee Forestry Center said.
And there are even more burning across the state. We’re not even in the driest months yet, but officials say we’re in for a very active wildfire season.
Most areas have gone nearly a month without significant rainfall, and there’s an abundance of dried out trees, branches and plants. So when something sparks, it can spread fast.
“It was a war zone,” Summers said. “It was scary, it was something that nobody should have to go through.”
The blaze that tore through Brookesville Friday was deemed suspicious and is currently under investigation.
Experts say there are things you can do now to protect your property before a wildfire sparks. The main recommendation is creating a defensible space around your home, a five to 100-foot safety zone that could help your house survive the flames.
“Make sure that you clean out your gutters, clean out your roof, remove all that vegetation from the side of your house,” Tear said. “Trim those trees up, take those bushes that are flammable out, if you’re going to replace the mulch anyway think about having rock in there.”
Research shows blowing embers and small flames are the main ways most houses ignite during brush fires.
Tear says homeowners should also pack a go-kit and keep it handy in-case they need to quickly evacuate.