SOUTHPORT, Fla. (WMBB) — Despite the severe drought we’ve experienced for the last few weeks, Tropical Storm Nicole helped. More rain is expected this week and will reduce fire threats even more. However, experts said we are not out of the woods yet.

Local experts said our area is still behind by about four to five inches of rain. The Climate Prediction Center said we can expect below-average precipitation during the winter season.
The dry conditions create a major fire threat.

“We still have timber damage from Hurricane Michael throughout the four or five-county area,” Chipola District Center Manager Mike Mathis said. “So that is our primary concern.”

There are several things local property owners can do to help. First, clear dead vegetation off your land. Second, pick up pine cones, leaves, and branches. Third, clear spaces around shrubs and trees.

“I would just recommend watching the weather,” Mathis said. “We’re not we’re not discouraging people to burn as much as just while watching the weather make sure all the setbacks are in place and, you know, have a good water source and don’t leave your fire at all.”

Don’t burn on the high wind, low humidity days. If you are planning an outdoor burn, remember to keep the fire at least 10 feet away from buildings. Also, stay at least 25 feet away from the woods, brush or other combustible structures. Maintain 25 feet of distance from your home and 50 feet from paved roads.

The size of the fire matters, too.

“It’s just a pile that’s larger than eight foot by eight foot that you need authorization from the Florida Forest Service,” Mathis said.