Florida governor declares state of emergency as destructive wildfires rage across the state
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
April 14, 2017, 5:34:17 AM EDT
Over 100 wildfires are burning across Florida in what has become the worst wildfire season in years.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Tuesday due to the recent wildfires and high risk for wildfire development in the near future.
“Much of Central and South Florida are approaching drought-like conditions and the chances for wildfires are continuing to increase with hotter temperatures and low rainfall,” Scott said in a release on April 11.
The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that nearly 34 percent of the state is experiencing severe drought.
This has been the most active season for wildfires in Florida since 2011, with active fires burning across more than 20,000 acres. These fires are burning all over the state, including some of the more popular tourist areas.
The fires have destroyed 19 homes, according to the Associated Press.
One of the biggest fires is the West Mims Wildfire in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which ignited last week due to a lightning strike. As of Thursday morning, the blaze has grown to over 8,400 acres and is zero percent contained.
“From St. George Island in the Panhandle to a wildfire just north of one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions in Orlando, we’re seeing that every area of our state is susceptible to wildfire,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said.
People visiting the Sunshine State should be mindful of the wildfire danger and may experience reduced visibility and road closures around some of the blazes.
The worst of the smoky conditions will occur during the overnight and early morning hours as the smoke settles around ongoing fires. Visibility could be reduced to near zero in these areas, leading to dangerous early morning commutes.
Law enforcement officials warned that the fire may displace animals from their natural habitats and into residential communities.
"Due to the brush fires in the Everglades, you may see a rise in wildlife entering residential areas to escape the smoke and flames," the Pembroke Pines Police Department said on its Facebook page.
The weather will not be favorable for crews battling the blazes across the state throughout the week and into the holiday weekend.
“No widespread, beneficial rain will fall across the state to help alleviate the overall wildfire risk through the weekend,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Houk said.
An easterly flow will help bring isolated showers ashore along the southern half of the east coast of Florida, but it will not be enough to help decrease the wildfire threat, Houk said.
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