Wildfire threats rise as dry conditions worsen

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — With record high temperatures and dry conditions expected to continue throughout the Panhandle, fire danger levels are elevated more than usual. That means there’s a bigger chance of man-made fires.

It has been 30 days since areas of NorthWest Florida have seen significant rainfall, now the Florida Forest Service urges caution to residents and vacationers, as these dry conditions worsen, the threat of wildfire increases.

Mitigation Specialist Florida Forest Service, Steve Weherley, said lightning does cause some of the wildfires, but not all of them.

“90 percent of our wildfires have been human-caused lately by burning yard debris and letting it escape,” said Weherley.

The Forest Service advises the public to avoid debris fires, especially on dry and windy days.

Across the Panhandle, some counties are under a burn ban, where no debris burning is allowed.

“Washington and Holmes County commissioners have implemented burn bans in their areas. The Florida Forest Service is not issuing any authorizations for outdoor burning with piles over 8 feet in diameter,” said Weherley.

Jackson County is expected to issue a ban early next week.

Just since January almost 90,000 acres have burned in Florida due to wildfires and low levels of rainfall.

“The northern part of our counties are up to 18 or 19 inches below normal rainfall, creating severe drought conditions in those areas. We’re under a drought condition here in the lower counties as well. Since September 1st we’ve had 59 wildfires in our seven-county area,” said Weherley. “If you don’t have to burn it, then don’t.”

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