Drought expected to prolong chance of wildfires for months

Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Tuesday due to the recent surge in wildfires, the Florida Forest Service’s Myakka River District is expecting the dry conditions to continue until summer.
“This is the highest fire danger time in the year,” said Patrick Mahoney, wildfire mitigation specialist for the Myakka River District, which services Manatee, Sarasota and three other counties.
According to the Florida Forest Service, a wildfire can happen when two weeks pass without rain.
Due to the current conditions, the Florida Forest Service Myakka River District is not allowing pile burns, which require permission if the pile is greater than 8-feet by 8-feet.
So far this year, Manatee has had nine wildfires that burned 82 acres.
In 2013, there were 70 fires during the same time period, but they only burned 1,565 acres.
Scott, more than 100 fires in the state are currently burning more than 23,000 acres.
On standby at the Myakka River District office on 53rd Avenue West is ranger Eugene Clark, a 27-year veteran of the Florida Forest Service.
“What little bit of rains we get only lasts a few hours, and then the winds come right behind it and dries it all out like it didn’t even rain.” Most of the fires typically happen in the afternoon and inland, he said.
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