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Fire danger continues to climb across the Suncoast

Wildfire Danger Index
KBDI (Drought Index)
Wildfire Danger Index
Posted at 5:40 AM, Apr 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-10 05:40:00-04

The problem started near the end of summer and into the start of winter when Florida saw very wet weather. The last gasp for significant state wide rain was Hurricane Matthew according to State Climatologist David Zierden. That period of rather heavy rainfall helped to increase the forrest growth and available wild fire fuels. Then the dry period set in with record dry conditions over a large part of inland Florida. This dried out the fuels and set up the fire danger we have today.

In addition, the temperatures have been well above the average. This can lead to an increased wildfire risk. Accordingly, the drought indexes continue to rise and have already contributed to more than 60,000 acres of Florida burned.

As we are now in the dry season which will continue through the rest of April and May, the drought situation will get worse. Rains would be welcome but thunderstorms bring their own risks. Especially the first thunderstorms of the rainy season starting in June. The first, isolated thunderstorms often ignite wildfires with stray lightning strikes.

One of the more accurate representations of the daily fire risk is the Florida Fire Service Wildfire Danger Index.

It shows the impact of current weather and potential fuel sources that contribute on a daily basis to the potential for a fire to start and require suppression. It currently shows the Suncoast in a "Very High" to "Extreme" risk.

While the US Drought Monitor put parts of inland and west coast Florida in a "Severe Drought" classification it is unclear if this will continue into summer. The Drought Monitor classification is identifying a short term drought of several months. Long term rainfall forecasts for Florida currently have us in an equal chances situation for above or below rainfall over the next 90 days.

John Scalzi