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Officials: Wildfires cover more than 1,000 acres in Big Bend

Burning Forest
Posted at 1:25 PM, Jun 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-03 18:26:17-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Four wildfires are burning right now in Leon County with two more smoldering in Wakulla County.

The Florida Forest Service is working overtime to keep the Big Bend Area safe.

The Sand Fly fire in Leon county is 80 percent contained. It's just west of the Silver Lake Recreation Park. The park closed down the very first day of the fire, but hasn't seen much impact since.

It's business as usual at the Silver Lake Recreation Area. But since May 30, visitors are asking the same question.

"There are people coming through asking about the fires," said Mike Woodard, a volunteer at the Silver Lake Recreation Park.

Just miles behind the recreation center, a 147-acre fire burns.

"You see it on TV all the time or when there's a movie, they show you the helicopters going to the lake. Dropping the water, picking it up, and dropping it on the fire," said Woodard. "Well, we got to see it firsthand."

Three wildfires are burning in Leon County and another two are burning in Wakulla County. Across the state of Florida, there are 88 active wildfires.

"Any month of year, we can have wildfires, but we tend to peak, especially in this area in May and June," said Jim Karels, the director and state forester for the Florida Forest Service.

The weather is usually at its driest during that time.

"We're in what the National Weather Service calls an abnormally dry period, not a drought," Karels explained.

Then you add in the extra debris from Hurricane Michael, and the area becomes even more prone to wildfires.

"As hot as this temperature is, it'll be almost impossible to put it all out, but as long as we're not blazing, we're in good shape," said Woodard.

Mike Woodard says they receive a daily update on the fire. There are also multiple firefighters constantly patrolling the area checking for hot spots.

Officials say forest fires spreading across more than 1,000 acres of land in Leon and Wakulla counties are continuing to smolder and likely won't be fully controlled until there is significant rainfall in the area.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, due to ongoing dry, hot weather, four major wildfires are burning in the Apalachicola National Forest. Friday, officials say the Apalachicola National Forest received more than 150 lightning strikes.

Fortunately, no homes or structures have been damaged or lost.

The U.S. Forest Service provided an update on the following fires Sunday:

  • The Brown House Fire in Wakulla County is currently 217 acres and 75% contained. The lightning-caused fire started on May 28.
  • The Diamond Fire in Wakulla County is 134 acres and 75% contained. The lightning-caused fire started on May 28.
  • The 360G Fire in Leon County is 521 acres and 75% contained. This lightning-caused fire started on May 28.
  • The Sand Fly Fire in Leon County is 146 acres and 70% contained. The fire started on May 29 and the cause is under investigation.
  • The Lost Fire (9 acres) and Otter Fire (3 acres) in Leon County are 100% contained. Both lightening-caused fires started on May 31.

Due to the fires, drivers are asked to use caution and drive slowly with lights on while traveling in smoky areas. Authorities say drivers should be particularly cautious when it is foggy. Morning fog can mix with smoke and decrease visibility further.

If you plan to visit the Apalachicola National Forest, make sure your campfire is completely out, ensure chainsaws, off-highway vehicles and motorcycles have spark arrestors and don’t throw cigarettes out of car windows or park or drive your vehicle on dry grass.