RIVER RANCH, Fla - The exceedingly dry weather has created a perfect storm for wildfires. As of Wednesday afternoon, a dozen wildfires were burning in Polk County alone.
"We have had about a month of little to no rain, nice sunny days, warm days, low humidity, gusty winds, and it has really dried a lot of stuff out," Florida Forestry Service spokesman Todd Chlanda told FOX 13.
Wildfires are popping up all over South and Central Florida and Polk County is being hit especially hard.
The situation is so serious, crews from North Florida are in Polk County with heavy equipment to act as backup for the Forestry Service and Polk Fire Rescue.
A wildfire in the River Ranch Hunt Club area burned 160 acres and destroyed 60 camps. In the last few weeks, 500 acres burned near the Streamsong Golf Resort in Southern Polk. After a fairly quiet dry season, the number of wildfires has soared recently.
Chlanda suspects that COVID-19 may be partially to blame. He says people who have been isolated during the pandemic are finally ready to relax and have a good time again since the number of new cases seems to be declining in many areas.
"People are getting out of their houses and getting back to nature," he said.
Under these dry conditions, even making a small mistake, he says, can turn into a big one.
"Be careful with your barbeque. Don’t be dumping ashes in the grass. Don’t be parking in the tall grass," he shared.
That advice comes none too soon. This weekend is Memorial Day when a lot of people cook out and head to the woods to ride their ATV and camp.