Florida Forest Service

Florida Forest Service

Firefighters with the Florida Forest Service’s Blackwater District had a busy Martin Luther King holiday weekend, thanks in large part to low humidity and backyard burns gone wrong.

The largest of the blazes scorched 20 acres in Okaloosa County and the cause remains under investigation. Another ten acres were burned when a debris fire escaped a yard. Joe Zwierzchowski in the Blackwater office says measures to keep home debris fires under control are basically common sense and in the form of rules and regulations.

floridaforestservice.com

For many, this is the ideal time of year and the ideal weather to go out and burn yard debris. The Florida Forest Service is warning residents planning such burns to use extreme caution.

No rain, dropping humidity and a rising fire danger level are in the forecast for the time being in the three Blackwater counties: Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa.

“It’s going to be another dry week it looks like,” said Joe Zwierzchowski, Blackwater’s Information Officer. “We’ve got some potential for rain the middle of this week, but it’s going to be spotty at best.”

Photo via Flickr//Jason Kriess, Washington National Gaurd

The Florida Forest Service has sent firefighters from around the state to three western states, to help battle wildfires and that number includes some local personnel.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who oversees the state’s forest service, points to the current low wildfire danger levels in Florida for being able to lend support. So far this season, Florida has deployed 52 wild land firefighters to western states. The latest group includes eight from the western Panhandle’s Blackwater District, which includes Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media

About 180 area residents, concerned about the possibility of increased military training in the Blackwater River State Forest, filled the Bagdad Recreational Facility in Santa Rosa County Thursday night for the final public hearing on the Air Force plan.

Photo via Flickr//Ben Watts

This is Wildfire Awareness Week in Florida, during a time of the year when firefighters are working to minimize risk to homes, businesses and residents. So far this year, more than 500 wildfires have blackened about 9,000 acres statewide.  

Wildfires generally occur in the spring and early summer months due to a lack of rainfall, low humidity and strong winds combined with increased yard burns. There have been 61 blazes in the Blackwater District of the Florida Forest Service – which covers Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties – that have burned just over 3,200 acres.

The Air Force is hosting two public town hall meetings this week to discuss proposed plans for military training in the Blackwater River and Tate’s Hell State Forests.  The first town hall to be held Wednesday, Dec. 11 at the Milton Community Center will focus on the Blackwater River State Forest.

“Well, we want to make sure the public has a good understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish,” says Mike Spaits, Environmental Public Affairs Officer for Eglin Air Force Base.