WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Approximately 1,218 wildfire outbreaks have scorched 33,525 acres across Florida, prompting Governor Bush to declare a state of emergency for the entire state.
The state's rainfall is well below normal for this time of year. Drought conditions are high in central areas with a rating of between 680 and 694 on the Ketch-Byram Drought Index in which 800 is the highest.
A high fire danger exists for central and south Florida and several outbreaks of fires have cropped up across these areas. Counties reporting fires include Orange, Marion, Flagler, Martin, Brevard, Hamilton, Hardee, Manatee, Alachua, Indian River and Polk.
Local officials have not reported any fire-associated fatalities and only minor injuries to 10 firefighters have occurred since the fires began in February. There have been minimal structures affected, though several homes have been threatened and some evacuations have occurred, including the evacuation of 25 people from several threatened apartment units in Martin County. The evacuees have since been allowed to return home.
The largest fires have been reported in Flagler, Brevard and Polk counties, more than 500 acres burned in each county. The State Department of Transportation is monitoring the smoke visibility threat to Interstate 95 in Brevard County. The Florida Division of Forestry (DOF) has deployed Fire Prevention Teams and equipment, including helicopters, drop buckets and brush trucks to the affected areas.
The state emergency declaration has also made other state resources available such as the Florida National Guard for fire prevention and fire fighting operations. There is no immediate relief in site to the drought conditions, though the chance of rain increases beginning Thursday and Friday. The Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) continues to monitor the fires and weather conditions. FEMA's regional office in Atlanta (Region IV) is in contact with the state and will continue to monitor the situation.